Aviation Awareness Day

Sister Marie Emery to speak at event

By Laurel Sparks
Contributing Writer

MADISON, Ind. (October 2004) – “Women in Aviation” will be the theme for this year’s Aviation Awareness Day, set for Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Madison Municipal Airport.

Sister Marie Emery

Photo provided

At age 81, Sister Marie Emery still flies.

Cris Sauer, spokesman for the event, says that many young women are unaware of career opportunities in the field of aviation. Also, they are probably unacquainted with some of the women who pioneered in this field. Sauer expects a number of local women who have become certified pilots to attend the day-long program.
The gates open at 8 a.m. The highlight of the program will be a keynote address by Sister Marie Emery, according to airport manager Dean Nixon. Even at age 81, Emery, who resides part-time in Madison, still flies her plane, the Cherokee Warrior. She also belongs to the “99s Women Pilots,” a group of outstanding pilots who regularly participate in outreach programs to educate the public about aviation. The group was co-founded in 1929 by the famous American pilot Amelia Earhart.
Recognized for her pioneering efforts to achieve recognition for women aviators, Earhart is best known as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
During World War II, Emery worked at Ford Motor Co. assembling B-24 bombers. After becoming a member of the Order of Dominicans, a teaching order of nuns, she had many opportunities to continue her education.
In the l970s, Emery decided to take courses in aeronautics in Lansing, Mich. With the encouragement of an instructor, she went on to complete the requirements for certified pilots. Not long after learning to fly, Emery wrote a manual on piloting intended for Girl Scouts and students in elementary school.
Another veteran pilot expected to take part in the program is Helen Kreeger, 88, of Hanover. Though she has now been grounded by cataracts, Keeger received her pilot’s license after training on a Piper Tri-plane in the l950s. For many years afterward, she and her husband, the late Milton Kreeger, flew planes on buying trips for their salvage business, Kreeger & Hensler. She says, however, that her love of flying “goes way back.” In l934, a high school friend took her for a ride in an open-cockpit plane, and she decided then that someday she would learn to fly herself.
Elizabeth McFall, 62, of Lexington, Ind., is just beginning her training as an aviator. She decided to learn to fly because she often accompanies her husband, Chuck, who is a private pilot. McFall says her goal going into training has always been to solo – to be able to take over the plane if anything should happen to her husband. But now that she has completed a few lessons with instructor Fred Wilkerson, McFall has become enthusiastic in her own right.
“The minute I started taking lessons,” she says, “it was wonderful fun. It isn’t as difficult as I had expected it to be.”
McFall said she is also impressed with the safety measures taken to get a private aircraft off the ground. Before a pilot gets into her plane, she does a thorough check “down to making sure every rivet and bolt is in place.”
McFall asks, “How many of us make regular safety checks when we go out in our cars?”
This year’s Madison air show will begin at noon. All of the aerobatics will be performed by men.
Keeger said, “I was always a straight-line flier myself.” But she adds, “I remember I had to do some stalls and things to get my certification.”
Among the professionals will be licensed sky-diver Steve Moyer, who has made more than 100 jumps. Madison’s Cliff Robinson, well-known on the aerobatics circuit, will perform in his vintage World War II Stearman bi-plane. Robinson, who has been flying for more than 25 years, will also offer plane rides following the show.
A featured performer new to the annual Madison event is Brett Hunter, flying out of Waynesville, Ohio. Hunter promises a “high-energy, unique” performance in the Pitts S-2C, which is a strictly aerobatic aircraft. Hunter demonstrates “low-level, high-speed fly-bys, perfect point rolls, and all that smoke.”
Emerson Stewart, another competitive aerobatic flier from Waynesville, Ohio, should round out the list of aerial performers.
Before and after the main events, visitors are invited to view the several vintage aircraft on display and visit informational booths. Sauer’s wife, Kathryn, will display her collection of items related to women aviators.
Included are prints, stamps, a good number of books, and some Amelia Earhart collectibles. Girls Inc. of Jefferson County plans to set up a table with information about the history of women pilots and careers for women in aviation.

• The Madison Municipal Airport is located at 3919 W. Ims Lane. Signs on West Clifty Drive direct visitors to the location. For information, call airport manager Dean Nixon at (812) 273-1914 or Cris Sauer at (812) 265-2803.

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