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The Beginning
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WRITING

I write magazine features and am a columnist, author, and editor. 

So after the whole English major thing, I spent the next 20 years mostly not writing.

I did the odd bit of travel and speech writing, along with pet projects for family and friends. Like most wannabe writers, fear, procrastination, and bewilderment of where to start kept me stalled out. Creating something out of nothing is a daunting task.

Then something extraordinary happened.

 

I learned how to fly.

 

The astonishing aftermath of this achievement was closely followed by a splashdown into competition aerobatics. Drinking from the proverbial fire hose, I wondered what the hell just happened.

 

To help wrap my head around the adrenaline-saturated world I suddenly inhabited, I began to compose my thoughts and experiences into words.

 

Aviation gave me something to write about.

 

Competition aerobatics involves lots of Type A overachievers, passion, blood, sweat, avgas, hot metal, and hard-charging egos. It takes a thick skin and a calm head to excel when flying in front of judges who pick apart your performance to exacting angles and degrees.

 

As a newly minted, female, and now suddenly an aerobatic pilot, I had a unique perspective on the sport. Approaching the editor of Sport Aerobatics magazine, I volunteered to write a column. Titled Brilliance & Buffoonery, the column was based around the phenomena that aerobatic brilliance is frequently followed by abject buffoonery. Reconciling this inevitability with humor helped navigate the emotional whiplash between the thrill of nailing it and the anguish of screwing up.

In one column, I regaled a shenanigan that entailed aviation legend Bob Hoover signing the bosom of my Nice Pitts t-shirt. Frankly, I was a little surprised that they actually published it because even though we’re a bunch of dirtbag acro pilots, Sport Aerobatics still is a “family” magazine.

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Meanwhile, a buddy who flies aerobatic gliders (yes, that is actually a thing) kept bugging me to come fly with him and I finally agreed. At the Williams Soaring Center in northern California, I met Italian champion aerobatic glider pilot Luca Bertossio, who trains there during the winter.  

 

I wrote a magazine article about my experience  flying aerobatic gliders for Sport Aerobatics magazine. Thinking it would be cool to be the cover story, I asked for it and was told yes. My first magazine cover!

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Shortly afterwards, I received an email from Jim Busha, Director of Publications for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA.) Apparently, the Bob Hoover story crossed his desk and he wanted to talk to me about writing for EAA. I was elated for the opportunity of a paying gig. I tried to play it cool during our chat, but was jumping up and down inside like a little kid.

 

Wrapping up the conversation, he asked apropos of nothing, “Do you know Luca Bertossio?” 

 

“Why yes,” I replied, surprised. “I met Luca flying aerobatic gliders. I just wrote an article about it.”

That year, Luca was making his U.S. airshow debut at EAA AirVenture. AirVenture is the planet’s largest aviation gathering, held each July in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As a young, hotshot pilot sponsored by Red Bull, EAA wanted to feature Luca on the cover of the July issue.

 

Jim asked if I’d write the story. Of course I said yes.

When he next asked if I’d like to come to Oshkosh that summer as a member of EAA Publications, I said hell yes.

 

So the first article I ever wrote for EAA’s flagship Sport Aviation magazine, a publication with a readership of 230,000, was the freaking cover story.

I had attended my first AirVenture as a dazzled newbie pilot a few years prior. Working at AirVenture was an entirely different flying circus. Zipping around in a golf cart all day long, I collected leads, pitched stories, scheduled photo shoots, and coordinated with colleagues. I had media colleagues! 

Throughout the week, I witnessed dozens of people working on ultra cool aviation projects and itched to tell their stories. “You know,” I said to Jim one afternoon towards the end of the show, “We should have a column in the magazine called Badasses Doing Epic Sh*t.”

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Jim, a retired police detective with a world-weary demeanor of one who has seen it all, sighed. “Now, Beth,” he said. “As good children of EAA, we cannot use the word ‘badass.’” Strangely, he did not mention anything about ‘epic sh*t.’ 

 

“Anyway,” he continued, “We already have enough columns.” 

 

Fine, I thought. I’m just throwing some paint on the canvas here. 

 

A couple months later, he asked if I’d like to write an aerospace innovation column for the magazine. 

 

“I thought you already had enough columns,” I said.

 

“I changed my mind,” he replied.

 

So now each month, I talk to engineers and inventors who work at places like NASA and Boeing, as well as scrappy startups and mad scientists. The stuff they are doing is absolutely mind-blowing.

 

And that my friends, is how every month, I get to write about...badasses doing epic sh*t.

(Im)morals of the story -

 

  • When your heart is pounding and your face is flushing because you can’t believe you are about to do something, do that thing.

  • Say yes to cool stuff that friends encourage you to do.

  • Pitch wild hair ideas that may or may not have swear words involved.

  • Way to play the long game, English major. I guess it came in handy after all.

Feature Writer

Magazine Features

I love telling people’s stories. The articles I write are about airplanes, but it seems that aviation is merely a frame of reference for fascinating human-interest stories. Individuals who design, build, test and fly aircraft are interesting characters. 

 

Check out the range of topics I’ve written about for different publications.

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Cecelia, We See You

Cecelia Aragon’s astonishing journey from fear to freedom

 

Cecelia Aragon overcame prejudice, bullying and self-doubt to become the first Latina pilot on the U.S. aerobatic team. Her memoir, Flying Free, was published in September 2020. It traces how she applied mathematics (wait, not English?!) to push through her fears to become a pilot, Ph.D., and professor of engineering. 

 

The best part of this story is that Cecelia’s old aerobatic stomping grounds were exactly where I flew. She pre-dated my arrival on the aerobatic scene by a couple of decades and we never had a chance to meet. Through this story, we finally got connected. She is totally going to be a guest on the Badass Pilot Babes Podcast.

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Twin Engines

The super-charged Patey brothers are flying forces of nature 

 

Twins Mike and Mark Patey started tearing apart and rebuilding toasters and vacuum cleaners as toddlers. The brothers became self-made successes who now design and build fantastical airplanes. Millions of people follow their latest projects on social media. 

 

The best part of this story is that I conducted the interviews with Mike, Mark, and their wives Chandra and Suzy from a beach on the north shore of Oahu. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. These stories don’t write themselves.

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Charged With Potential

Electric empowering a new vision of flight training

 

Joseph Oldham had a unique idea to help make a pilot career more accessible to disadvantaged kids - reduce the cost of flying by training in electric airplanes. The Sustainable Aviation Project, based in Fresno, California, is a partnership between cities, airports, countries, and companies. It is the sole project of its type in the world and recently captured the support of Boeing.  

 

The best part of this story is that I pimped out Joseph for a flight in the Alpha Electro. He estimates only about a couple hundred people have flown electric airplanes thus far. He scolded me when I didn’t keep the plane 100% coordinated since that scrubs precious electric energy.

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Gutsy Moves

Passion and drive keep Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour ahead of the curve

 

The idea of flying never occurred to Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour until she saw a “black chick in a flight suit” at an ROTC event in college. She subsequently joined the Marines. After two tours in Iraq, she began a new career as a motivational speaker and coach and wrote a book, Zero to Breakththrough. She works with women in senior executive leadership positions. 

 

The best part of this story is that FlyGirl will be the first to point out all her firsts - female, black, lesbian, combat pilot flying the AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter in Iraq. Those sure are a lot of boxes ticked. Plus, she’s been on The Oprah Winfrey Show twice.

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Super Fun

Super Cub on floats opens a world of adventure 

 

Soon-to-retire airline pilot Ray Cook bought a 1959 Super Cub, fixed it up and put it on floats. With meticulous detail, Ray restored it into a traveling, camping, utility machine; the perfect airplane for the kind of flying he and his wife Christina love to do.

 

The best part of this story is how I wrote this article about an airplane and its people after seeing them for only a few frenzied minutes at Oshkosh. Information was gathered entirely by phone, photos, and email. It was fun the following year to finally closely check out the airplane I had spent 40 hours writing about.

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The Last of the Firsts

The sole surviving Spitfire Mk.IX prototype

 

The legendary Spitfire fighter was born out of Britain’s desperate bid for freedom in WWII. The restoration of this exceedingly rare Mk. IX Spitfire led to some astonishing revelations. The series of coincidences and sequence of events that led to learning the provenance of this particular aircraft is so spooky it gave me chills. 

 

The best part of this story is that at AirVenture I met the son of one of the pilots who flew this plane in WWII. John is British, lives in Australia, has a wicked sense of humor, and we are now friends on Facebook.

Columnist

Columnist

Innovation - Cutting Edge Developments, EAA Sport Aviation magazine, 2015 - present.

 

This column is the favorite thing I write. Topics span a range of emerging technologies including design, propulsion, avionics, manufacturing, supersonic, hypersonic, advanced aerial mobility, airspace integration, and technology accelerator prizes. 

 

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Keep it Simple

BETA Technologies’ perfectly pragmatic approach. 

 

BETA is one of the frontrunners in the electric “flying car” race. This Vermont based startup has been operating in lean, mean stealth mode for years. Founder and inventor Kyle Clark is also the test pilot. He believes that engineers who fly design better aircraft and pays for his employees to learn how to fly.

Brilliance & Buffoonery, EAA Sport Aerobatics magazine, 2014 - 2019.

 

The magazine's editor recently referred to this column as an “entertaining and thought provoking” read. A heady combination of snark and deep thought. 

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Brilliance and Buffoonery

90 Percent  Mental, 10 Percent in Your Head

The inaugural column. At my first aerobatic contest, a case of extreme panic almost paralyzed me. I write about how I played some mind games to trick myself into performing. Also, how the best way to achieve something is to help others do the same thing.  

Author

Author

I’m (slowly) writing a memoir. The thought of writing a book is utterly daunting, but I have the “if I can learn how to fly an airplane, I can do anything” mantra repeating in my head. I also psych myself up by thinking about it as a series of articles as opposed to an entire book.

 

The book will contain way more gory details and juicy bits than what I can write about in polite company. You know you’re dying to read it. In the meantime, podcasts, blog posts and smack talk on social media will do nicely. 

Editor

Editor

My copy editor once said the thought of conjuring stories out of thin air terrified her. I guess that’s why she's an editor. 

 

I love taking a rough draft and helping the author polish it until the story shines. After years of writing original content, it is so refreshing to pick apart somebody else’s work.

 

Newspaper, magazine, speech, or book manuscript, I edit them all. Pitch me your project and I’ll help make it awesomer. 

 

I thought I just made up that word, but I looked it up and awesomer is a word - "A nonstandard comparative form of awesome, meaning more awesome."

 

Awesome. 

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