Wings Over Marin

Christa Coleman - 2013 scholarship winner

Christa Coleman – 2013 scholarship winner

How to begin? How in the world could we ever have anticipated such a deluge? It rained, it poured, it emptied the frogs out of the heavens. The estimates were for 2-3,000 visitors clogging the ramp area, in awe of all that’s aviation.

Because parking is non existent at Gnoss the plan was for buses to shuttle the guests from Firemans Fund parking area to the field. Barbara O’Grady, Barbara Powell, Beth Behrens, Susan Royce and Kimberly Lewllyn were our docents for the bus ride over. Our poor wet duckies; waiting all morning for no one to show up, shoes and socks getting soaked, huddled under umbrellas and hoodies, hopes diminishing in the puddles and all the time they had their smiles out and ready. Three buses were canceled, no crowds storming the doors. These 99s get the heroic medal of the day!

Pat Pittelkow staffed our Marin 99s table always with a warm welcome for the people darting out of the rain and seeking shelter under the awning. She even managed to sell two note pads. When times get tough and you need help these are the people to call. Never a complaint, chin up and a little ‘gallows’ humor carried the day.

 Laurie Riebeling and the 'Yak Attack'.

Laurie Riebeling and the ‘Yak Attack’.

I was busy being the mistress of ceremony for the speakers and seminar participants. The hanger was the busiest spot because it provided the most shelter. Laurie Riebeling, captain with Fed Ex, gave a great talk on life in the cargo world. Most of her flying is at night, escorted by star light, when routes are less congested. The planes originate out of Memphis, TN stuffed with boxes, livestock, cars and mail. If it fits they fly. Laurie deserves so many thanks for stepping up 2 days before the event and volunteering to talk. Our scheduled speaker had to cancel due to training issues and I was scrambling to find a replacement. She was wonderful!

Our second speaker, Col. Yvonne Cagle flight surgeon, astronaut, NASA researcher and local girl goes supersonic was a treat. She grew up in Novato, was inspired by the first boots on the moon and never looked back. During med school she joined the Air Force, graduated and then worked as a surgeon in the military. From there she moved to NASA in prep for a space mission. Retiring from space she joined NASA research studying the influence of space travel on humans. What I enjoyed about her talk was how much more is unknown than understood about our cosmic neighborhood. There is always an “awe!” when bumping into a new experience and space is a big opportunity to wander around.

Yvonne spent the entire day,through rain and drizzle, being available to all. She would greet people, listening to their stories, encouraging kids and being a beacon of good will. Never once did I hear a “What a bust”. Later when the clouds lifted you could see her taking off in an open cockpit, pink baseball hat blasting through the sky, thrilled to be airborne.

We then had a seminar with four speakers; Laura Kushner from NASA wind tunnel research, Mollie Davis, pilot with Virgin North America, Allie Metcalf from Oakland FSDO and Kristin Winter, aviation attorney. The intent of the seminar was to provide a forum for questions and answers and to show kids the many avenues that aviation can take one. Initially I asked what inspired them to do what they do, what background did they need, what are the benefits of their jobs, what do they love about it, and what would they do differently? The answers were all frank and a great look into what makes aviation possible in our nation. The audience had lots of questions beyond what I had prepared.

My favorite moment was giving Christa Coleman a scholarship from our chapter. Christa was overwhelmed by our generosity, her family was so proud and you can imagine what a pivotal moment this was in a young person’s life. It made me so proud to represent all of you and our support of a young person’s confidence and vision. A big thank you for all who voted to allow this scholarship. It’s a great investment in the future of aviation.

All day long as I worked the crowds with Yvonne it was the kids who most impressed me. Their questions, their enthusiasm and intent was absolutely amazing. Around 2:00 the weather cleared enough to get some of the planes airborne, people could stroll the ramp and admire the planes on display, hot dogs were rolling and smiles emerged. Although too late for the planned fly bys a few planes got to grace the air with their sound and wing.

Thank you, thank you to all who gave up their time for a very soggy,wet day. You met the challenge with smiles and unflagging energy. You’re the spirit of aviation and the best part of the family of flight. Your love and excitement for what you do touched many people. We have been gifted with so much it’s an honor to return the good will.

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