Female Pilot Caps Career With Fleet Week Act
By Henry K. Lee, 'San Francisco Chronicle'Julie Clark is a living legend in aviation, a veteran acrobatic pilot and one of the first women hired to fly for a major airline. She was scheduled to fly at Fleet Week, creating a giant heart with red, white, and blue smoke from her plane, and hopes her story will inspire others. "If you can dream it, you can do it," she says. The 61-year-old Clark got the flying bug when she was eight years old and her pilot father snuck her into his transport plane through the baggage compartment. Tragically, he died six years later when a deranged passenger broke into the cockpit and shot him and his co-pilot and crashed the plane. Her mother had died a few years earlier, leaving her and her sister parentless, but Clark surprised her relatives by declaring that she wanted to be a pilot. She had her license by the time she was 21 and then became a civilian instructor for the Navy, worked as a commercial pilot for 30 years, and has been doing air shows for nearly that long. She flies a modified 1956 Beechcraft T-34, a former military training plane, which she bought for $18,000 at a government surplus auction and restored herself. She is a small woman—just 5’3"—but jokes that she is flying the plane, not lifting it.
November 12, 2009
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