Above It All
from It's A Living! Career News for Girls
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Mancano, her head in the clouds, dreamed of
flying while other girls dreamed of a home
and family. Today Maria is a helicopter pilot
with 10 years' flying experience.
has moved communications towers and gigantic
logs with her helicopter. She has taught others
how to fly. She has transported patients from
car accidents to emergency rooms and from trauma
centers to hospitals. Maria has always been
interested in the mostly male, "nontraditional"
professions. Before she fell in love with flying,
she considered police work and fire fighting
high school, Maria moved from her home in West
Virginia to live with her sister in Oregon.
She wanted to escape being a "steel mill rat." She
worked at a department store and, after a 7
month visit to Israel, decided to enroll at
Portland State University and study Hebrew
and the Middle East. To support herself, she
went to work for a big grocery store. That's
when she had her first flying lesson. She was
"I knew this would be my life; I didn't want
to be just average; I wanted to be good."
knew paying for lessons was going to be hard. "Most
pilots receive their training in the military.
This means they don't have to worry about paying
for individual lessons. Not me. I got my training
when I could afford it. That's a hard way to
learn. You don't remember as much from one
lesson to the next."
took Maria 2 years to get her license. Flying
lessons cost her $150 an hour. (You need at
least 150 hours of flying time to be a commercial
pilot.) Maria spent more than $30,000 learning
to fly. To pay for her lessons, she sold her
skis and her camera. She sold a car her parents
had given her. She accepted money from a friend.
She ended up running a forklift on the loading
dock at the grocery and also unloaded freight
she finally had her pilot's license, Maria
opened a helicopter school for students. This
is one way pilots get the hours they need to
qualify for good flying jobs. "Working with
students was fun. They are so excited about
her favorite flying times were with Columbia
Helicopters. Maria spent 6 years living in
logging camps with her dog Yasha and flying
huge twin-rotor helicopters 6 hours a day in
Washington. She'd shuttle crews in and out
of small landing zones cut out of endless forests.
But most of her air time was spent steadily
hauling 10,000 to 30,000 pound loads of cut
and limbed trees from the deep woods to where
they could be loaded on trucks. "You take these
big logs, 250 feet from the center of the helicopter,
and you finesse them into locations where other
people could never put them. It's like threading
a needle in the sky. You need consistency.
You have no depth perception at this altitude.
'To fly the long line' and fly it well with
the wind and the turbulence is very challenging."
comparison, Maria's current job as a MedEvac
pilot transporting patients to care centers
is a little boring.
"It's like running a taxi service. The challenge
comes when you have to create a make-shift landing
zone--when you have to pick somebody up at an
accident and there is a rough surface or obstruction
or wires to maneuver around."
works 6, 12-hour days. But she is never flying
that long. She waits in a bunk house with other
pilots for a call. When that call to fly comes,
she could be watching a video, reading a magazine
or a book, filling out paperwork, or sleeping.
Unless the weather is really bad, she has only
5 minutes from the time she gets the call until
the time she takes off in her helicopter. She
has to decide whether the flight is possible.
Is there a storm brewing that would make it
dangerous? What about the wind? "They don't
tell me who the patient is. They don't want
to influence my decision of whether or not
her 6 days of work, Maria has 6 days off. She
lives with her father in the town where she
grew up, but once a month she travels for fun--to
St. Louis, Missouri; Ocean City, Maryland;
Rockport, Massachusetts; Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
She has friends all over the world. She looks
up the students she taught to fly. This summer
she spent a week in the villa of a friend near
Avignon, France and went to Monte Carlo to
a convention of helicopter pilots.
the time I was 5 years old, my mother called
me 'Gypsy.' It's a sure case of a mother creating
a wanderlust in her daughter." It was when
Maria's mother got sick that Maria moved from
the logging camp in the Northwest back home
to West Virginia. She helped her father care
for her mother, who died 6 months later of
Alzheimer's disease. Her parents were married
for 54 years. That's how Maria came to join
Corporate Jet and became a MedEvac pilot in
Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
says: "From the very beginning I loved the
spontaneity of flying, being able to create
as you go along. And I love the expanded line
of vision, the openness and space, and going
to places that not everybody can get to."
need more scholarships for women pilots. It's
still hard for a woman to make it in this field.
You have to compete with all the military pilots
who have the advantage of that excellent training."
Career Is For You If You...
a risk taker
be decisive and take responsibility for
get the strong math and science background
you'll need to calculate when it is safe
to fly and when it is not. To do this,
you need to know how to read weather forecasts
and calculate weight, fuel, distance, air
speed, and wind effects on the aircraft
join a military service to learn how to
are 39,167 women certified pilots; 614,921
men certified pilots, and 1,000 women helicopter
for beginning helicopter pilots: $21,000 to
$25,000 plus travel expenses.
a Living! Career News for Girls