20th anniversary - Women in Aviation International Conference
Atlanta, GA - February 2009

Departure - Going to Atlanta:  Tuesday, February 24th was a beautiful day for a long flight from WAI1.jpgLaBelle to Atlanta. The air was cool, the winds were light and I was up for an adventure. The plan was to collect fellow racer, Jo Alcorn, in Winter Haven around 9-ish; proceed to Waycross to chat about the Air Race for 2010, then head in to Peachtree Airport near Atlanta where we would get our rental car, load our exhibition materials and head to the WAI conference by 2-ish. I should have learned long by now that one cannot use the words "plan" and "airplane" in the same sentence unless it is something like: "The trip with the airplane did not go as planned".  
With a "chirp" the landing at Winter Haven was picture perfect. Jo was ready and we were back in the air in no time flat. We had just enough room in Wild Mama to stuff Jo's bag as the plane was packed with convention gear - display booth, WAI2.jpgpromotional material, computers, convention booth decorations and 20 pounds of chocolate. We flew off into a cross wind for the majority of our trip to Waycross, GA, the wind gaining strength as we proceeded northward. The ride was actually getting quite rough and I had to hand fly the plane to try to smooth it out a bit. But after 1-1/2 hours of speed bumps we arrived in Waycross no worse for the wear. Another "chirp" and we taxied to the ramp for some chatting about the Air Race and lunch.
Just after noon we were ready to depart, said our good-byes and headed off to runway 5 for departure. The wind was 120 at about 10 kts so either runway 5 or 18 would have worked equally as well. We made a final zig zag to check the turn coordinator. We zigged to the left but kept on zigging. The right brake just failed! Chop the power to stop from runing off the taxiway and straighten out so we can get turned around and get back to the ramp. "You guys lost out there?" Smart guys from the FBO. We taxied back in to ask for a local mechanic. There were none to be found so we called Vern to come rescue the plane.
By the time Vern gathered tools, parts and a plane and made the trip to Waycross, it was nearly 4:00 p.m. He immediately went to work on the brake only to discover that it was not going to be a simple WAI3.jpgfix and would require much more than he had at his disposal. With the time too late to rent a car, Vern loaded all of our stuff into the twin Aztec and flew us the remainder of the way to Peachtree. By the time we landed, ate, got our car, took Vern to Walmart for overnight supplies and dropped him at a hotel, it was after 10 p.m. Jo and I still had a 30 minute drive to downtown Atlanta to get to our hotel for the evening. We promptly crashed in bed upon arrival.

Convention Play: Part of any good convention is the amount of lay time offered to the participants.WAI4.jpg WAI gets 2 thumbs up for the extra-curricular activities offered. Our pre-convention day was a trip to the Warner-Robins Aviation Museum. It was a fun but long day pouring over airplane exhibits and some interesting war exhibits. We were particularly intereted in Rommels Asparagus Patch - large poles planted into the ground in open fields by the German to prevent aircraft landing by the Allied troops - and the parachute wedding dresses made and worn by local girls who hid troops during an invasion in WWII. 
WAI5.jpgThe other trip was to the Georgia Aquarium. Now you really have my attention. This was one of the finest aquariums that I have seen. The exhibits were logically arranged, greatly varied and very well done. They had whale sharks, beluga whale, salt and fresh species from all over the world and great multi-media presentations to compliment each exhibit. This was truly an evening to remember and a great departure from the aviation theme of the conference. But what can be better than fish and flight all rolled into one? WAI6.jpg

WAI8.jpgConvention Days:  As much fun as we were having, Jo and I were there to work for the Air Race Classic. We had a booth to set up; prospective racers to excite and prospective sponsors to entice. The days were long and the exhibition hall was packed for all 3 days of the conference. We were on our feet all day (OK, except when this photo was taken) and came back to the room each night exhausted but still smiling.
On Friday morning we conducted the 2009 Air Race Classic drawing for the first 10 race numbers. This is always an WAI7.jpgexciting event for the ladies who are in the hunt for the first 10 numbers. Fran Strubeck from the neighboring 99s booth, did the honors for the drawing. Anne Marie Radel and her partner, Juliann Sikora drew the lucky Classic 1 spot and will lead the 2009 flock of racers off the line in Denver, CO in June.
WAI9.jpgIn addition to the thousands of conference attendees, I was privileged to meet Nicole Cagnolatti who presented me with the 2008 "If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It" Scholarship. While I had spoken with Nicole and e-mailed her on a number of occasions, I had not had the opportunity to personally thank her for the generous scholarship provided to me for my float plane rating at Twitchell's last July. Nicole presented me with a beautiful crystal diamond in recognition of the occasion. It is a very special award that I can now see to treasure forever.
So as the conference is winding down on Saturday and we grow more silly by the minute, we find ourselves face to face with a delimna: It seems that a representative of Southwest Airlines came to visit with some questions about the race. Now anyone who has flown Southwest can attest to the fact that they are an airline with a sense of humor. They presented us with a perplexing question, our last of this very long but successful conference:  Will this plane qualify to race at ARC??????WAI11.jpg

Our Flight (?) Home:  As our luck would have it (and this was a real lucky break),it snowed in Atlanta on Sunday - the morning we are to depart for home. The rains came first, then the sleet and slushy snow. The temperatures plummeted and the winds howled. All flights out of Atlanta were halted and passengers - and convention goers - were left stranded in Atlanta as the winter storm blasted through the south. All were stranded, except us!!!! We were driving because our plane is still sitting with no brakes  in a hangar in Waycross, safe and sound. We do the happy dance.
Bright and early at 0-dark-30, we grab our car, load our gear and depart south on I-75. It was a bit of slow going at first with pounding rains, but we managed to hit pretty far south and only saw a fleeting flake or two enroute about 100 miles north of the Florida border. By the time we hit the border, the winds had increased but they had also blown ot the gray skies that remained to the north. It was clear sailing all the way home. Did I say that I was up for an adventure?
Wild Mama  is still in Waycross and we will have to go fetch her later in the week. . . at least, that is "the plan". . . . .