Women of Aviation—SkyChick Ramona Cox: The Airway Less Traveled!

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And Now . . .

Ladies and gentlemen, this week’s Chick of the Skies is none other than . . .

SkyChick!

Ramona Cox Sky Chick-Women of Aviation

“SkyChick”Ramona Cox—Women of Aviation

Ramona holds a special place in my heart, as she is all about adventure in the skies. She shows us that aviation doesn’t have to be limited to the airline cockpit, or even the aerobatic box.

She shows us that aviation is by nature an adventure, just waiting to be unleashed, if you would only find the courage to unleash your own imagination. Ramona is also a great storyteller that draws crowds of pilots—whether it be at the local hangar or AirVenture Oshkosh—to hear  of, and draw inspiration from, her latest adventures.

While, by nature, it’s often difficult to catch up with Ramona, I did get to hang with her at this year’s “Fly it Forward” event in Albuquerque. A little pistol of a gal, she is full of energy and gracious generosity as well.

The SkyChick Ramona Cox Women of Aviation

SkyChick Ramona Cox, luxuriating in her back yard!

The Airway Less Traveled

by Ramona Cox

“Landing on wilderness airstrips and using survival skills for months at a time epitomizes the word, wanderlust. This type of flying makes my soul sing.”SkyChick Ramona Cox

Some people say that I’ve taken the road less traveled.

 

I suppose that’s true, since few pilots actually “choose” to land on rutted dirt or grass airstrips, unless an engine light has forced them down.

8x10-Camping at Fish Lake SkyChick Ramona Cox Women of Aviation

That looks interesting. Let’s drop in!

My original motivation for learning to fly came about when I was ski racing.  A fellow racer took me for a flight in a VariEze and I was instantly hooked.

I’ve enjoyed the $100 hamburger, flown across the continent, performed in airshows and dabbled at aerobatics.

We did loops and rolls and, aside from loving the feeling of flight, I wanted to get to the race course in two hours instead of six. So, after a bit of ground school at UCLA and flight time, I became a pilot.

I owned a design firm at the time, so I never intended to make flying a career, but as time passed, I realized that it would be the most fun sport I could have ever learned. I’ve enjoyed the $100 hamburger, have flown from one end of the continent to the other—exploring Canada and Alaska as well—performed in airshows doing formation demonstrations in a T-34 Mentor, and dabbled at aerobatics.

SkyChick Ramona Cox Women of Aviation

Air Camping across the Sierras

But nothing fulfills my thirst for adventure better than air-camping.  Landing on airstrips located deep in the wilderness and using survival skills to spend weeks or months at a time epitomizes the word, wanderlust.

I was introduced to air-camping by Clay Lacy, who owned a home in Pistol Creek, ID. He invited my friend and I to visit, and upon the first landing, I was hooked.  I always loved nature and knew that this was the type of flying that made my soul sing.

For three years, I spent the entire summer air-camping and exploring the best back-country airstrips in the western states. I fished or hunted with a bow for my food and learned the situational awareness to avoid becoming dinner for the local wildlife.

Unlike car-camping, you can’t call 911, and a scream merely echoes through the canyons.

During that time, I had to make a living, so I learned mobile technology and ran an internet company using a small laptop, portable printer and Globalstar Satellite Phone.

While most pilots were worried about violating the latest TFR, my concerns focused around the suicidal moose who could, while I was landing, casually stroll in front of my plane, thus simulating a brick wall that would pierce the thin skin of my fragile fuselage.

Schafer_DSC_0510_convThen there were the pesky little gophers that worked like stealth saboteurs, digging camouflaged holes in the tall grass that could swallow my nosewheel and leave me stranded in the middle of Nowheresville.  Unlike car-camping, you can’t call 911. There is nowhere to run, and a scream would do nothing more than echo through the canyons.

Given those parameters, every sound, no matter how slight, gets your attention.  Without the noise of towns, cars or any form of civilization, your hearing becomes much more acute, particularly at night. And when deer run out of the woods looking back in despair, you can’t help but wonder…What’s chasing them?

SkyChick Ramona Cox Women of Aviation

At night, I prefer to be sitting outside of the tent and often just lay my bed under the wing.

My eyes slowly adjust to the blackness.  Although I can’t see deep into the woods, the runway provides a vast open space whereby I can often see the silhouette of creatures lurking in the distance.  Is it a deer, moose, bear or perhaps a mountain lion?  Sometimes they’re close enough for my flashlight to turn their eyes into glowing green marbles.  This helps me determine their height and girth and choose the most appropriate weapon for my uninvited guest.

 

I’ve learned to always be prepared, even if the locals say that there are no predators.  Wild animals—and some humans—are unpredictable.  Before sleeping, I move my bed from the side of the tent to the middle.  Little things like that matter when you consider that the intrusion may start with the razor-sharp claws of a grizzly bear piercing the thin tent walls.  Although I read virtually every book on bear behavior, I still haven’t figured out how to tell the difference between a “bluff charge” and the real deal.  Then there’s the tricky matter of determining whether the incoming bear is the type that leaves you alone if you play dead, or the type that will simply gnaw on you until playing dead is your only option.

Ramona_CoxAnd let’s not forget the stampeding moose with the temperament of a hungry pit bull that will run you down and stomp you into a pulp if you make the grave mistake of getting between her and her calf.  At least bear and moose usually give warning.  What keeps me on edge is the stalking mountain lion that magically sneaks up without making a sound and gives NO warning before his lethal lunge.

Sound good so far?

Camping for a week is a piece of cake. Camping for months separates the right product from the hype product.

After doing extensive air-camping trips, about 12 years ago I started lecturing at AirVenture, SunNFun and many other aviation associations.  My goal was to introduce pilots to back-country flying. I finally finished a DVD “Flying Off the Grid” earlier this year which is now available on www.skychick.com.

I also review gear for many companies, because camping for a week or weekend is a piece of cake. Camping for months separates the right product from the hype product. (Ed. Note: Ramona is now excited to be a Brand Ambassador for SPOT GPS and Mobile Phone!)

My website at skychick.com has a lot of suggestions regarding gear and if pilots have questions regarding the back-country airstrips or are looking for gear recommendations, I’m happy to help out.

RC_IMG_6663

Whoopin’ it up, up, up in the air, with the Fly it Forward gals!

I share my passion of flight with people of all ages, and recently gave 135 demo flights in three days to females of all ages as part of the Fly It Forward Challenge. (Ed. note: see last week’s post with Ramona’s friend Dianna Stanger!)

My goal was not to convert all of them into pilots.  My goal was to let them see that they could accomplish whatever they wanted in life, as long as they had the desire and perseverance it would take to make it happen. The good news is that one girl signed up for lessons on the spot!

There is nothing more satisfying than introducing others to the wonders of flight.  Once you’ve done it, you will be forever hooked and potentially change the lives of your lucky passengers forever.

Ramona Cox Sky Chick-Women of Aviation

Magnificent view out the back door!

Off to the next adventure…

THANK YOU, Ramona, for your wild tales of derring-do! I must admit, ever since my Alaska Bush Pilot adventures back in the late 80’s, I’ve longed to once again taste that adventure. It sounds like your air-camping fits the bill! My “dream retirement plan” has always been a cabin on a lake with a floatplane parked in the “back yard.” Your words are inspiring me to start that retirement dream a tad early!

SkyChick Ramona Cox can be found at:

Website: skychick.com

Facebook: facebook.com/ramona.cox

Twitter: @TheSkyChick

https://instagram.com/skychickadventures/

Linkedin:  Ramona Cox Skychick

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