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Fri, Aug 06, 2004

Warbirds: Not Just for Boys

Ladies in the Air Part 2

By ANN Contributor Aleta Vinas

(This is the second of a two-part series from contributor Aleta Vinas, who interviewed several women pilots during AirVenture 2004 --ed.)

Read Part One

Connie Bowlin's husband of 30 years thought it was the toothbrush, but it was really the airplanes. "He said he shouldn't have let me bring my toothbrush," she tells ANN. "I said, no, you shouldn't have given me an airplane."

Bowlin's interest in aviation started while watching a crop duster in North Carolina. She started to do a bit of flying during college. A friend's father owned an airplane. She logged a little time here and there.

Once she met her future husband, Ed Bowlin, who sold airplanes, her flying took off. She was taught by one of her husband's friends. She earned her private pilot rating in a little over two months. Even now, Bowlin (above) recommends the fast track, when possible. "You don't waste the time relearning," she says.

"Military training is so valuable because it is such an intense program and that's ALL you do," she says, although she admits her flight experience began a bit too early to make full use of the military in her flight career.

Delta Airlines hired her as a Flight Attendant in 1970. At that time "they really still laughed if you wanted to be a female pilot," she says.

In March of 1978 the laughter subsided. Bowlin transferred to the flight department. She was only the third female pilot at Delta, one of fifty at major carriers in the US. In September 2003, she chose early retirement. She was a 767 captain at the time.

Since retiring, Bowlin has served on the EAA Warbirds of America Board. She also works on licensing and obtaining Letters of Authorizations for the Warbirds and pilots with the government and works closely with the FAA on Warbird issues.

Bowlin is the coordinator for the Warbirds in Review talks. For her WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) presentation, she displayed a vintage P-51 Mustang. Bowlin says she chose the Mustang because "it's such a classy airplane and to point out the WASPs flew all (the types) of the airplanes in WWII." The Mustang displayed was on loan from Bowlin's friend, Jack Roush.

Most of the aircraft on the Warbird line are types Bowlin's flown. She's also flown Cubs and Pitts. The Bowlin's owned his & her P-51 Mustangs for a while. "We came to our senses. Owning and maintaining a P-51 is so time consuming, that was one of the major reasons we sold the aircraft."

Bowlin has this to say about the B-17; "The pleasure of flying the B-17 really is to meet the veterans and the people that the airplane meant so much to. That's the real thrill."

 Bowlin's advice for gals wishing to start flying; "I would really encourage them to just be a pilot and relax and let it work. The airplane doesn't know the difference (in gender) and if you do a good job no one else will either."

FMI: www.wasp-wwii.org

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