EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 6 August 1, 2008     

Fewer obstacles face female aviators today
By Barbara A. Schmitz

Julie Clark

Life isn't always easy. And it isn't always fair, either.

But Julie Clark hasn't let that stop her as an aerobatic pilot or commercial airline pilot. She faced personal tragedies and a world that wasn't ready for females to work in jobs traditionally held by men. And she persevered, and says other women can, too, if they don't let excuses stop them.

Clark became interested in flying because of her father, an airline pilot who flew in the military during World War II. By grade school, she could look up and identify almost any airplane, especially military, that flew overhead.

But personal tragedy delayed her flight training. When she was 14, her mother died in a choking accident. A year later, in 1964, her father was shot by a deranged passenger in flight. The plane ended up crashing, killing everyone on board.

WAI offers new scholarships

Women in Aviation International (WAI) is offering new scholarships this year, bringing the total to 53 separate scholarships worth more than $310,000 to be awarded at its February 2009 annual conference.

"It would be wrong to think that WAI's scholarships are just for college-bound members," said WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. "Many of our scholarships are for members thinking of a career change to aviation or to add a particular license or rating. Age is not a factor in awarding any particular scholarship. By the way, neither is gender. To apply for a scholarship, you need only be a WAI member."

Among scholarships to be offered for the first time are:

  • The Sporty's Foundation Scholarship-Two $5,000 scholarships for small aircraft maintenance technicians to earn a recreational pilot certificate.
  • Flo Irwin Memorial Scholarship-A $1,000 scholarship to a junior or senior woman majoring in aviation management with the intent to start her own aviation business after graduation.
  • O.D. Clemmer Memorial Scholarship-A $3,000 scholarship to be used to earn a private pilot certificate.
  • The Michele Marks-McCormick Memorial Seaplane Scholarship-A $1,500 scholarship for a private pilot to add a seaplane rating.
  • WAI Connecticut Chapter Engineering Scholarship-A $500 scholarship to pursue an engineering career in the aerospace industry.

For more information and instructions how to apply, visit www.WAI.org.

Say cheese and break the world record

If you're a female pilot, current or not, or a female who has started flight lessons, meet at AeroShell Square at 10:30 a.m. Friday for a group picture of the largest gathering ever of women aviators.

If you can't make the picture, still make time to sign a giant logbook that will track the number of female pilots attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008. The logbook is displayed in the EAA Welcome Center, again allowing women pilots-current or otherwise and student pilots, too-to sign in and participate in an attempt to establish a world record for the largest single gathering of women aviators in history.

It's all part of WomenVenture, a joint effort by EAA and Women in Aviation International, which aims to attract women as new pilots through the presentation of programs, seminars, speakers and events during the week.
According to 2007 FAA Airman data, women make up about 6 percent of the total number of pilots in the United States, or about 35,784 of the 590,349 pilots.

Suddenly an orphan, Clark and her twin sister moved in with an aunt and uncle. "We never had any money so pilot lessons were simply out of the question," she says. Plus her aunt couldn't begin to understand why she'd even want to fly after her father's death. "I remember telling her, 'My dad wasn't killed by a plane; he was murdered.'"

After high school, she attended college on a scholarship. One day her aunt sent her money for books, plus a little extra. Clark immediately pedaled her bike to the local airport where she took her first flying lesson. That was 1967.

After that, Clark worked different jobs to earn money to take more flying lessons. During the day, she was a professional water skier with Marine World/Africa USA. At night, she'd go to work as a cocktail waitress. But early the following morning, she would be at the airport for her next lesson.

Clark gathered certificates and hours, and eventually became a flight instructor for the Navy and tried air racing for a while. Then, in 1976, she followed in her father's footsteps and became an airline pilot. She was the 13th woman in the nation hired for the job.

But getting to that part was difficult and downright frustrating.

"Before any major (airline) would hire me, I knew I had to get a job at a commuter airline and there were only three commuter airlines throughout the entire U.S.," Clark says. No carrier would even consider her until she paid for her own ground school and training.

But once she had the certificate proving she was qualified, she faced more roadblocks. "It took nine months of me continually calling up…and they just kept telling me they were not sure they wanted to hire a woman. Some airlines would even hang up on me when I said my name and found out I was female."

Finally, she resorted to writing Julian Clark on job applications, and skipping the square that asked her sex, just so she could make it to the job interview. Reluctantly, Golden West Airline started showing an interest, but one of the managers expressed some concern about her long hair. "I said I could put it in the back or braid it…but in the end I ended up cutting my hair to chin length."

But the manager said it wasn't short enough so she cut it to the top of her ears.

Just one barrier was left for Clark. The manager told Clark that base op at LAX had a men's bathroom as you walk in and that it had no door. He said he wasn't sure how they could handle that.

"It was the final straw," Clark recalls. "I had done everything they had asked for. I put both my hands on his desk, leaned forward and said, 'You're telling me the only thing holding me back is a men's bathroom? I'll buy the door and even install it.'"

She got the job, and she never even had to buy or install the door. "Instead we come up with a code," she says. "I'd knock three times and say 'Julie' and they'd zip up or keep their back to me."

According to 2007 FAA Airman data, females hold 7,101 commercial pilot certificates in the United States or about 6 percent of the 115,127 total. While that number is still low, it is higher than when she retired as a captain at Northwest Airlines in 2003 after more than 23 years, Clark says.

"The opportunities are there and the door is so wide open," Clark says. "The WASP really broke the barrier, but once their service to the country was done, no one would even hire them to fly the mail. But today it is a different world."

And it's up to women to take advantage of those opportunities, she says. "Women today face fewer obstacles than we had."

To support Women in Aviation International and other female pilots, Clark says she'll be participating in the group photo-the world's largest gathering of female aviators-10:30 a.m. today at AeroShell Square.

While she's retired from commercial flight, Clark's aerobatic career is still going strong; in fact, she will also be performing in today's air show. After 19 years with one sponsor, Clark says she partnered with new sponsor Chevron in 2007. "They have such high standards and I'm proud to have my name associated with the company."
Clark performs in a Beechcraft T-34 that she purchased in 1977 for $18,000 at a government surplus auction sight unseen. It took her nearly five years to restore and she has logged more than 30,000 hours in the air.

How much longer will she fly air shows? "When someone says, 'Julie Clark is flying so I'm going to get a hot dog,' then it will be time to quit. But as long as people are still entertained, I'll keep flying."

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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