Antelope Valley Ninety-Nines members take flight

For the first time in years, the annual Poker Run & Barbecue won’t take place for the Antelope Valley Ninety-Nines Chapter members, but they decided to swap that fundraiser for two other events — Dining For Dollars and Airplane Washes, a modern-day version of the more traditional Car Washes.

Not to worry, according to AV Chapter Chairwoman Lynne Hsia. The Poker Run will resume in 2021. Meanwhile, AV Chapter members decided to try something a bit different and Dining for Dollars surfaced. They haven’t yet selected restaurants to partner with in 2020. That’s still in the works, but when an event is scheduled, the AV Chapter will receive a percent of the food sales. Airplane Washes seemed like another great way to clean up.

“We really appreciate Aerotech’s help every year (with) a story about the Poker Run,” Hsia said. “It really helps people learn about the Ninety-Nines and it helps (get) people to come out.”

The Poker Run helps pilots “improve on their flight proficiency,” Hsia said. Funds raised go toward aviation scholarships and the money brought in from Dining for Dollars and Airplane Washes will serve that same purpose.

“We donate to the Antelope Valley College Aircraft Maintenance Program and we give scholarships to student pilots.”

Hsia said fundraiser dollars are separate from the Ozzie Levi Advanced Rating Scholarship, a competitive memorial scholarship of up to $2,000 awarded annually for advanced ratings and/or certifications in flight. The Levi Scholarship comes from the Levi family, honoring his memory. He was a pilot based at General William J. Fox Airfield. He had been actively involved with the Airport Association as well as the community at-large.

Levi Scholarships are available to licensed female pilots at least 17-years-old, who live in, work in or fly from an airport in the Antelope Valley Ninety-Nines service region.

Like other members of the AV Chapter, Hsia is a pilot. “I’m a private pilot,” she said. She flies a general aviation aircraft, that she rents each time she heads skyward. Her favorite? A four-seat, Piper Cherokee, which has low wings and is easy to fly. She goes flying about once a month.

Unlike some of her AV Chapter friends, she did not come from a family of pilots.

“No one in my family has ever flown.” She broke the cycle of relatives with feet planted firmly on the ground.

“I got the idea from a college friend at UC Santa Barbara. When she got her license, she took me all over California. I got hooked.” Hsia has been flying for 40 years.

Lynne Hsia, AV Chapter chairwoman, and AV Chapter member Helida VanHoy stand in front of a RV6 aircraft at the Girls in Aviation Day at Fox Field, Calif., in October 2019. (Courtesy photograph)

“Now my daughter got her pilot’s license in high school. So, I was able to pass it on to the next generation.” Her husband does not fly any aircraft. “In our family, my husband is the passenger.”
AV Ninety-Nines currently has 39 members. Of that number, six are students and three are lifers.

“We have a number of members that fly at Edwards,” she said, in reference to the Air Force Base. “They’re learning to fly at the Aero Club, right on base.” In fact, AV Chapter member Connie Farmer is manager of the Aero Club on base, Hsia noted.

Members of the AV Ninety-Nines Chapter include or have included a commercial airline pilot, an astronaut, a military pilot, glider pilots, a helicopter pilot, flight test engineers and others working at NASA Armstrong.

Amazing women are and have been part of the AV Chapter.

The colorful Florence Lowe Barnes, aka Pancho, was an early member of the Antelope Valley Ninety-Nines Chapter. Barnes was born in July 1901 in Pasadena and died in March 1975 at her home in Cantil. As a pioneer aviator, she broke Amelia Earhart’s air speed record in 1930 and as a movie stunt pilot she founded the first movie stunt pilots’ union.

Another recognizable name around the Antelope Valley: Flora Belle Reece, who served during World War II as a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot, commonly referred to as WASP. Reece was born Oct. 21, 1924 in Oklahoma and died Dec. 1, 2014 at UCLA Medical Center. She is buried at Lancaster Cemetery.

As a farm girl, she loved nature and watched the birds. She knew she wanted to fly. Her senior year in high school coincided with the onset of World War II. She joined the war effort to serve her nation with honor and humble pride. After the war, she became a teacher, still filling a public need.

The Antelope Valley Chapter is one branch of a much larger association called Ninety-Nines, Inc., International Organization of Women Pilots, founded Nov. 2, 1929, at Curtiss Field in New York. Amelia Earhart was among the 99 officially declared charter members. In 1931, the group elected Earhart as the organization’s first president.

At the top level the Ninety-Nines boast a membership of more than 6,100 strong, spread across 35 nations. The AV Chapter is one of 32 chapters that span California from the far north down to San Diego. California is part of the nonprofit organization’s Southwest Section, which covers Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii.

The Antelope Valley Chapter meets on the third Monday of each month but goes dark in July and August. Aside from Palmdale and Lancaster, the AV Chapter serves Rosamond, California City, Tehachapi, Inyokern and Lone Pine.

In addition to the formal meetings, AV Chapter members have gathered for events like the Goodie Boxing & Breakfast at Foxy’s, where some members created 11 boxes filled with “goodies” to thank their support organizations, or by hosting the 2020 Southwest Section Winter Workshop from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 25 at Palmdale Holiday Inn for a networking and brainstorming session.

Celebrating holidays together helps strengthen their bond. Their Future Women Pilot program offers female student pilots assistance in attaining their private pilot certificate.

Skyword, AV Chapter’s newsletter, provides information to members on a variety of topics, for instance Chapter Vice Chairwoman Rosemary Jensen recently visited the National WASP World War II Museum at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, or that member Elise Gravance moved to a new location, still within the AV Chapter area and so did Board Member Helida Vanhoy.

In Skyword readers learn that an organization member has died.

They also learn that the Los Angeles County Air Show is set for the weekend of March 21 and that registration is now open for the 2020 International Annual Conference slated for July in Long Beach, where attendees get up close to the Queen Mary.

That four-day event, kicking off with a Welcome Party on July 8, will feature a Keynote Speaker from SpaceX, between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on July 11 culminating with an Awards Banquet later in the evening.

These women, with their forward thinking, pave the way for others.

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