Life isn't always easy. And it isn't
always fair, either.
But Julie Clark hasn't let that stop her
as an aerobatic pilot or commercial airline pilot. She faced personal
tragedies and a world that wasn't ready for females to work in jobs
traditionally held by men. And she persevered, and says other women can,
too, if they don't let excuses stop them.
Clark became interested in flying because
of her father, an airline pilot who flew in the military during World
War II. By grade school, she could look up and identify almost any
airplane, especially military, that flew overhead.
But personal tragedy delayed her flight
training. When she was 14, her mother died in a choking accident. A year
later, in 1964, her father was shot by a deranged passenger in flight.
The plane ended up crashing, killing everyone on board.
WAI offers new scholarships
Women in Aviation International (WAI) is
offering new scholarships this year, bringing the total to 53 separate
scholarships worth more than $310,000 to be awarded at its February 2009
"It would be wrong to think that
WAI's scholarships are just for college-bound members," said WAI
President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. "Many of our scholarships are for
members thinking of a career change to aviation or to add a particular
license or rating. Age is not a factor in awarding any particular
scholarship. By the way, neither is gender. To apply for a scholarship,
you need only be a WAI member."
Among scholarships to be offered for the
first time are:
- The Sporty's Foundation
Scholarship-Two $5,000 scholarships for small aircraft maintenance
technicians to earn a recreational pilot certificate.
- Flo Irwin Memorial Scholarship-A
$1,000 scholarship to a junior or senior woman majoring in aviation
management with the intent to start her own aviation business after
- O.D. Clemmer Memorial Scholarship-A
$3,000 scholarship to be used to earn a private pilot certificate.
- The Michele Marks-McCormick Memorial
Seaplane Scholarship-A $1,500 scholarship for a private pilot to add
a seaplane rating.
- WAI Connecticut Chapter Engineering
Scholarship-A $500 scholarship to pursue an engineering career in
the aerospace industry.
For more information and instructions how
to apply, visit www.WAI.org.
Say cheese and break the world record
If you're a female pilot, current or not,
or a female who has started flight lessons, meet at AeroShell Square at
10:30 a.m. Friday for a group picture of the largest gathering ever of
If you can't make the picture, still make
time to sign a giant logbook that will track the number of female pilots
attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008. The logbook is displayed in the
EAA Welcome Center, again allowing women pilots-current or otherwise and
student pilots, too-to sign in and participate in an attempt to
establish a world record for the largest single gathering of women
aviators in history.
It's all part of WomenVenture, a joint
effort by EAA and Women in Aviation International, which aims to attract
women as new pilots through the presentation of programs, seminars,
speakers and events during the week.
According to 2007 FAA Airman data, women make up about 6 percent of the
total number of pilots in the United States, or about 35,784 of the
Suddenly an orphan, Clark and her twin
sister moved in with an aunt and uncle. "We never had any money so
pilot lessons were simply out of the question," she says. Plus her
aunt couldn't begin to understand why she'd even want to fly after her
father's death. "I remember telling her, 'My dad wasn't killed by a
plane; he was murdered.'"
After high school, she attended college
on a scholarship. One day her aunt sent her money for books, plus a
little extra. Clark immediately pedaled her bike to the local airport
where she took her first flying lesson. That was 1967.
After that, Clark worked different jobs
to earn money to take more flying lessons. During the day, she was a
professional water skier with Marine World/Africa USA. At night, she'd
go to work as a cocktail waitress. But early the following morning, she
would be at the airport for her next lesson.
Clark gathered certificates and hours,
and eventually became a flight instructor for the Navy and tried air
racing for a while. Then, in 1976, she followed in her father's
footsteps and became an airline pilot. She was the 13th woman in the
nation hired for the job.
But getting to that part was difficult
and downright frustrating.
"Before any major (airline) would
hire me, I knew I had to get a job at a commuter airline and there were
only three commuter airlines throughout the entire U.S.," Clark
says. No carrier would even consider her until she paid for her own
ground school and training.
But once she had the certificate proving
she was qualified, she faced more roadblocks. "It took nine months
of me continually calling up…and they just kept telling me they were
not sure they wanted to hire a woman. Some airlines would even hang up
on me when I said my name and found out I was female."
Finally, she resorted to writing Julian
Clark on job applications, and skipping the square that asked her sex,
just so she could make it to the job interview. Reluctantly, Golden West
Airline started showing an interest, but one of the managers expressed
some concern about her long hair. "I said I could put it in the
back or braid it…but in the end I ended up cutting my hair to chin
But the manager said it wasn't short
enough so she cut it to the top of her ears.
Just one barrier was left for Clark. The
manager told Clark that base op at LAX had a men's bathroom as you walk
in and that it had no door. He said he wasn't sure how they could handle
"It was the final straw," Clark
recalls. "I had done everything they had asked for. I put both my
hands on his desk, leaned forward and said, 'You're telling me the only
thing holding me back is a men's bathroom? I'll buy the door and even
She got the job, and she never even had
to buy or install the door. "Instead we come up with a code,"
she says. "I'd knock three times and say 'Julie' and they'd zip up
or keep their back to me."
According to 2007 FAA Airman data,
females hold 7,101 commercial pilot certificates in the United States or
about 6 percent of the 115,127 total. While that number is still low, it
is higher than when she retired as a captain at Northwest Airlines in
2003 after more than 23 years, Clark says.
"The opportunities are there and the
door is so wide open," Clark says. "The WASP really broke the
barrier, but once their service to the country was done, no one would
even hire them to fly the mail. But today it is a different world."
And it's up to women to take advantage of
those opportunities, she says. "Women today face fewer obstacles
than we had."
To support Women in Aviation
International and other female pilots, Clark says she'll be
participating in the group photo-the world's largest gathering of female
aviators-10:30 a.m. today at AeroShell Square.
While she's retired from commercial
flight, Clark's aerobatic career is still going strong; in fact, she
will also be performing in today's air show. After 19 years with one
sponsor, Clark says she partnered with new sponsor Chevron in 2007.
"They have such high standards and I'm proud to have my name
associated with the company."
Clark performs in a Beechcraft T-34 that she purchased in 1977 for
$18,000 at a government surplus auction sight unseen. It took her nearly
five years to restore and she has logged more than 30,000 hours in the
How much longer will she fly air shows?
"When someone says, 'Julie Clark is flying so I'm going to get a
hot dog,' then it will be time to quit. But as long as people are still
entertained, I'll keep flying."