Sunday morning, I crawled out of bed at the crack to renew my flight instructor certificate. (CFII MEI for those of you who are interested.) For the past twenty years I’ve opted to update my ratings online, but this time I decided to challenge myself and take a recurrent check with a designated examiner who specializes in flight instructor reinstatements. Crazy, I know.
The “Gold Seal” instructor and I met on the board of directors of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and instantly clicked. So why not? I mean, how much trouble can two bottled blonds get into in an experimental airplane?
I packed up my Lancair’s operating handbook, my medical and logbook, hopped into the Subaru and drove towards Tulsa’s Riverside Airport. Nan Gaylord’s office was located at the local FBO just north of the control tower. (A fixed based operator is a place to get fuel, maintenance and a warm, however marginal cup of coffee.)
Her office door was wide open and welcoming, just like her smile. Sincere, jovial and usually paired with an infectious, high-pitched hackle. Inside, every inch of open wall was covered with aviation memorabilia. Maps, posters, even airplane shaped cookies decorated her work space. Hundreds of snapshots of former students were surrounded by news clippings, the most notable named her “Oklahoma’s Female Aviator of the Year”.
The tall, willowy examiner walked over and threw her tanned arms around me. “So nice to see you.” She said and retreated to her desk to clear a line of miniature airplane models in order make room for me to sit.
Now I’ve have taken many flight tests during my career and just for the record, this was the first time a FAA examiner had ever hugged me. Things were going well.
I pulled the chair out on the student’s side of the desk and set my flight bag on the floor. Nan adjusted the charm bracelet dangling from her wrist, opened her book of standards and read down the list. As I watched the experienced instructor fall into a testing groove my eyes wandered to a framed article hanging just to the left of her cropped layered hair cut. I skimmed the newsprint.
Dressed as a Bunny? I squinted and refocused on the article.
Halloween? Costume party? My mind ran through the possible scenarios when a skimpy tuxedo-style bunny costume may be required dress.
Nan must of noticed my lack of attention because she paused to see what was so interesting.
“Yes,” her howl escalated like a tornado siren. “I worked a brief stint at the Playboy Mansion.”
My eyes bulged. “Oh my goodness.” I joined her, laughing well past a polite giggle. “A bunny turned professional pilot?” I heaved and held my side. “Now I’ve heard it all.”
Nan flashed me a half smile, a deviant smile, the kind of grin that let you know there was much more to her story than plain old professional pilot.
This fact delighted me. I could relate. Like her, my history to date included so much more than female pilot.
Nan’s playful expression disappeared and she flipped the page of the test book. “Let’s start with aeronautical knowledge.” She said.
I sighed and admired her hot pink finger nails. Things are rarely what they seem.