Saturday, June 11, 2011

Booklist: Takeoff!: The Story of America's First Woman Pilot for a Major Airline

Takeoff!: The Story of America's First Woman Pilot for a Major Airline, by Bonnie Tiburzi

Bonnie Tiburzi, at twenty-four, broke the sex barrier in commercial aviation by becoming the first woman pilot ever hired by a major United States airline. Takeoff! is her own candid story of how she won her wings - the high price she paid in hard work, disappointment, and personal heartache - and why she feels it was worth it. It is also a fascinating behind-the-scenes story of the real world of aviation, which few passengers ever see - inside-the-simulator and inside-the-cockpit glimpses of major airline training, apprenticeship, on-the-line operations, camaraderie with pilots and flight attendants, and very occasional nerve-shattering danger. Bonnie Tiburzi grew up in a flying family. She had flying lessons at the age of twelve and received a license at nineteen. She knew early on that what she really wanted to be was an airline pilot, but when she had earned enough flying hours to admit it out loud, the reply was always "Don't be silly. Airlines only hire men."

She relates her experiences as a pigtailed charter pilot for customers like Ted Williams and the long, often frustrating struggle to open that first airline door. Once inside, the problems didn't stop: consider designing a uniform for just one, competing in training with only men and military veterans, and being mistaken for a flight attendant, a purser, a bell-hop or even bus driver. Takeoff! is a marvelously entertaining and revealing story never told before. There's food for thought here. "My being a woman in the cockpit, that bastion of masculinity, was more of a problem for the men than it was for me," writes Ms. Tiburzi. "I was used to male flyers. They weren't used to me!"

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