For pilots, the sky's the limit
When they were kids, these three women wanted to be pilots. Now they've reached their goal and are living their dreams ... in the air.
Have you ever watched a plane soar through the sky? Did you ever wish you could ride on it ... or even fly it? A fascination with aviation has led these three women pilots on amazing flight paths of their own.Skip to next paragraph
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Ms. Getline, a captain with a large commercial airline, knew from the age of 4 that she wanted to fly. Her dad was an aerospace engineer, always flying off on business. She was eager to fly, too. "To shut me up, my family sent me to San Diego from Long Beach," she says. It was her first ride on a commercial airline, and she knew she wanted to do it again.
At 16 she persuaded her family to let her fly to Germany and then on to Austria to study German. She made friends with a French girl, who invited her to Paris. Getline studied French in Paris and Russian in Leningrad.
By the time she was 18, she was fluent in German, French, and Russian, and had achieved her aim of traveling all over the world. But she was no closer to flying a plane herself. Whenever she boarded a plane, "I would visit the cockpit," she says, "and ask loads of questions: 'What's this? What does it do? How does it work?' They would say maybe when I grew up I could be a stewardess [flight attendant]."
On her first flying lesson, she got sick. The instructor told her she'd never make it. Another instructor, seeing Getline's determination, agreed to give her more lessons. She went on to earn her private, commercial, and instrument licenses.
Getline knew that to be hired as an airline pilot she would need to show a lot of hours on her flight record. At that time, the military did not allow women to fly. But by joining the Army, Getline was able to get herself on different types of aircraft as a passenger. She would tell the pilots she had a commercial license, and they would let her fly. Soon she had an impressive number of flying hours.
When Getline left the Army, she faced a different problem. In those days, "Meryl" was sometimes mistaken as a man's name. When she showed up for her first interview she was told, "We're not ready for a female pilot."
Getline vowed then to be the most qualified pilot she could be, so no one could refuse her. She first worked for a small airline company, acquiring as much flying experience as she could, and getting her flight engineer rating and her rating to fly a large DC-10 aircraft. Getline became the first female - and youngest pilot - in the US to get her DC-10 captain's rating. Finally, in 1985, she was hired by the company that had initially rejected her. Capt'n Meryl, as she is known, is still there.
You can read more about Getline's experiences in her book, "The World at My Feet: The True (and Sometimes Hilarious) Adventures of a Lady Airline Captain."
Ms. Bathe, who lives in Canada, is the author of a series of children's books about the adventures of Violet the Pilot. When she was in kindergarten, her friend's dad, a pilot for Air Canada, gave a talk at her school. "He was really nervous so he focused in on me since he knew me," says Bathe.
When she got home, she announced, "I'm going to be a pilot!" Then she found out that her mother and her grandmother's brother were once pilots.
Bathe's mother was from Austria. They would fly there in the summer and to Florida in the winter to escape the cold weather in Toronto. "Spreading [my] wings and flying gave me the appetite to constantly learn," she says.
Bathe decided a pilot's life was for her, but her teachers and others suggested that she aim for being a stewardess instead. "In my teens, people said, 'You'll never do that,' " she recalls. She set out to prove them wrong.
During the day she worked at her mom's travel agency. Before and after work hours, she would take flying lessons and attend ground school to learn flying regulations and meteorology (study of weather). She also learned how to navigate, read charts, and work an airplane's flight computer.
After two years she obtained three types of licenses: one for flying small private planes; a commercial license, which allowed her to fly jumbo jets; and an instrument rating, which showed she knew how to navigate at night and during bad weather using cockpit instruments.