I did not start out to fly planes!!
After I finished graduate school sometime in the early 1980s, instead of getting a real job, I decided it would be more fun to tramp around the Idaho wilderness working as a geologist and whitewater river guide. In the winters I ran from the cold to Baja Mexico, where I could sea kayak and kiss whales…and get paid to do it!
One day sometime in those low water years on the Middle Fork of the Salmon I had to fly into the river; my first small airplane flight was in a Britten Norman Islander into Indian Creek (pronounced “crik”). From that moment on, I was hooked! I got my private license in 1989 and soon after bought a 1947 Cessna 120. For some reason I do not now fully remember, I decided to fly it to Florida … in the middle of the winter!! Three weeks and lots of adventures later, I made it 🙂 I hung out in the south until June and completed my instrument rating and commercial pilot license, and in 1992 landed a job as an Idaho backcountry air taxi pilot. Soon after I completed my CFI certificate and started teaching backcountry flying for the FAA mountain flying seminars in Challis in 1993.
For most of the 1990’s I flew around the Idaho back country and taught flying in Boise (except for a short stint as a corporate pilot). During that time I learned many valuable lessons and made lots of friends in the back country aviation world. One of my mentors, the late Lyn Clark, invited me to join her and Lori MacNichol, another flight instructor from McCall, in forming the McCall Mountain/Canyon Flying Seminars. We noticed general aviation flying in the Idaho backcountry was growing more popular, and wanted to promote education and safety. Sadly Lyn, the anchor of the company and good friend, died in 1997 after our first year conducting seminars. For the next several years I carried on, developed the curriculum, and authored the training materials that are still in use today in those seminars. You can see some of it on this web site and in articles published in Pilot Getaways magazine.
Realizing I wanted to reach out to a broader spectrum in aviation education, I took a position as Director of the Professional Pilot Program at Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon while completing my Ph.D. in Education, and in 2003 joined the faculty at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, where I am now a Full Professor.
The basis for my writings are a body of knowledge shared by back country and mountain pilots as well as my own experiences flying and teaching in the mountain west. The new book, Mountain, Canyon, and Backcountry Flying is the result of two years of intense research and writing, as well as collaboration with my co-author, R.K. “Dick” Williams and many other experts in the field. I want to especially thank backcountry pilot extraordinaire, Mike Dorris, of Sawtooth Flying Service for his long time mentorship and advice. Additionally, I owe much of my attitudes about flying to one of my personal heroes, the late Jim Larkin, WWII Pilot, Forest Service Pilot, back country pilot, and Idaho Aviation Hall of Fame inductee. Jim’s vast knowledge, experience, advice, and humor have been a source of constant inspiration to me, as is his memory.
Finally, I want to thank all the pilots and students with whom I have had the privilege of flying over the past 34 years. The meaningful questions and productive suggestions and feedback have shaped my own continued learning and growth as a pilot and flight instructor.
I have now given about 3000 hours of back country flight instruction, and over 180 professional presentations on mountain, canyon, and backcountry flying for various organizations throughout the United States, including AOPA, FAA, Alaska Airman Association, Idaho Aviation Association, EAA, Washington Pilots Association, Civil Air Patrol, Oregon Pilot’s Association, Columbia Aviation Association, Women in Aviation International, Idaho Aeronautics, International 99’s, State of Washington Dept. of Aviation, and more. I still love flying in the back country in my American Champion Scout … .and now she is on floats!