As I See It: Lift your spirit ... learn to fly!

It is a feeling I believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience

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A few months ago I received a wonderful reminder of the real start of my U.S. Air Force flying career.

As an Air Force ROTC cadet in 1966 who was a pilot candidate courtesy of the demand for pilots for the war in Vietnam — and thanks to good eyesight and physical health — I was enrolled in a University of Minnesota flight training program at Anoka County Airport.

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The training syllabus was likely identical to what might qualify someone to prepare for a private pilot license.

At the end, I didn’t pursue taking the Federal Aviation Administration check ride because I didn’t feel confident I could pass, a feeling amplified after my instructor told me I probably wouldn’t make it through Air Force pilot training.

Fast forward to this summer when I received a letter from the Minnesota Chapter of The 99s — more about that organization in a few paragraphs.


One of their members who flies out of Anoka County Airport found the logbooks of the people who trained at the U of M Flight School (including the ROTC cadets). The building owner where the books were found granted the 99s permission to find the people and return the logbooks to those they positively identified.

With the financial support of several local businesses, they went to work.

I remember filling my logbook out after every flight, but assumed it had been lost somewhere along the line. When I learned it had been found, I was ecstatic. And then they offered to mail my logbook free of charge.

You can bet I got mine. I don’t normally like surprises, but this one put me in such a good mood that it still resonates every time I look at it displayed with my other flying memorabilia.

The 99s also intrigued me. They are officially known as “The Ninety-Nines, Inc., International Organization of Women Pilots.” Their mission is the “advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and mutual support while honoring our unique history and sharing our passion for flight.”

Further, they are an international association of women pilots that is nearly a century old. Women obviously caught the flying bug just as early and as easily as men!

Consider that the Wright Brothers made their first flight in 1903; the first licensed woman pilot was certified in 1911, amnd the 99s were formed in 1929.

Amelia Earhart was elected as the first president in 1931, when they adopted their name honoring the 99 charter Members. The women even beat the Order of Daedalians — a fraternal order of military pilots (of which I am a member) — that was organized in March of 1934 and now includes all military aviators.


In case you didn’t know, Air Force pilots were all male until September 1977, when the first 10 women graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training. It took more than a few additional years for women to become combat fighter pilots, members of the Thunderbirds Demonstration Team, and to enter the ranks of rated senior officers.

Looking back, the experience of the Women Air Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II should have carried a lot more weight than it did in advancing women in military aviation.

Whether you are male or female, there are many opportunities to get started flying. From aviation programs at some colleges and universities to the professional organizations such as the 99s, the Daedalians, the Air Force Association, the CAP, the Experimental Aircraft Association and others, education and support are available.

The number one thing I recall about flying isn’t all the different aircraft I’ve flown, the missions, the states and countries where I served, or even the people I flew with — it is the feeling of freedom one can get in the air, in an airplane where I am in complete control.

It is a feeling I believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience.

Learn to fly if you can. Let your body soar like your spirit does when you watch the eagles or other birds as they freely turn, climb, dive and pirouette looking down upon us earthbound creatures.

As the last line of a poem on my wall reads, “Because I fly, I envy no man on earth.”

That’s how I see it.


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Echo Journal Columnist / Pete Abler

Opinion by Pete Abler
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