Part two of the story of Captain Wendy A. Yawching

One of the many highlights of my instructing time was a summer that I spent training young military cadets at an isolated airport in the stunning “wilderness” of northern Ontario. It was quite a kick to be called “Ma’am” and be saluted by these keen young people, all on their way to achieving their dreams.

Each of the instructors had “their” cadets to train, and it was a bit of a competition to see whose students would be the best. Now that’s the kind of competition I like… where everyone could be the best they could be. I was very proud, when all our cadets graduated, all excellent.

Late in 1985, my boyfriend (who was also a flying instructor, and shared my dreams of flying the big jets for the big boys) said something like this to me: “You know you’re getting old, right?” (I was newly 30) “You know most pilot hires are like 21 years old, right?” I knew this. Most of them had rich Dads who could pay for flying training right out of high school. Then he said “so girlfriend, if you are serious about being a real pilot, stop wasting time and get out there!”

At the time, I was enjoying my busy life just fine. My computer career had blossomed, I was now working freelance, doing contracts for some impressive clients like IBM and Imperial Oil, as well as a few small businesses. I had even managed to pay off the credit cards and save some money. But he was right and I credit him with giving me the push to make the next step. Which took me away from him but we are great friends to this day.

It didn’t hurt that this was at the beginning of one of the worst Canadian winters of all time, and soon after his comments I was out training a student just before a huge blizzard was expected to move in. I figured I had enough time to do the lesson safely, so there I was, teaching steep turns to a middle age man, when I got the call to return to base, the blizzard was racing in ahead of time. So, we did. Halfway to the airport the weather really crapped out, the student gave up all attempts at flying and handed it over to me. I fought that little Cessna back to the airport and landed in horizontal blowing snow so bad that once on the ground they closed the airport and sent out people to “wing-walk” our plane back to the hangar. I stepped out thankfully and said to myself ‘Wendy, what the **** are you doing in this cold place?’

I guess that was the extra kick I needed… knowing that at least 4 more months of this kind of weather was still coming.

So, a month later I flew home to Trinidad to see my folks, and while there, contacted BWIA. They said that they weren’t hiring, not for another two years. So, I contacted LIAT. They were hiring, but I would need to convert my Canadian Licenses to the British equivalent and get my multi-engine rating (very expensive, which was why I had not yet done it).

I flew back to Toronto and made immediate plans. Counted my money, it looked barely possible. Within a week, I was in Florida doing my multi-engine rating and then as soon as that was done I flew back to Toronto, packed my cold weather bags and flew to England to do the British conversion training and exams. The cheaper alternative would have been to study with the local trainers in Trinidad, who were teaching the “conversion exams” to hopeful Trini pilots. Usually took about a year to do them that way, and success was not assured. Not for me. I wanted it like now.

I did my conversion training in a little town in south of England, the only female in a class of 30. It took about two months and then I flew back to Toronto, exhausted and broke. I sent my updated resume to LIAT, and they said: “you’re hired; ground school starts next week.” WOW! I repacked my bags for warm weather (joy), said goodbye to my computer clients and flew out at age almost 31 (too old for a pilot, I know) to begin the next stage of my life.

 

The story continues tomorrow….

 

You can read Part One HERE

Part Three HERE

Part Four HERE

3 COMMENTS

  1. Great story. Where is Part 3. Well done to you Wendy. It has been great following your story. I lived in Toronto the same years as you and also worked for LIAT. (No femaile pilots in those days)

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