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Another Real Feminist

17th January 2003 

The day began as normal, up at about 6.30am with the usual ablutions etc,, before making myself a giant cup of tea and settling down in front of BBC World to get the drift of what is happening out there in the world. This is while I wait for Noi and Black to stagger forth into the day ahead. We left for the trip to Blackís school at the usual time, of about 7.15am, getting there about 7.35am, without event. At this time the day it was quite cool for Thailand about 22C I guess in the region of 75 F with the night mist still lying on the ground and gathering in the small valleys looking really surreal with only the tops of the palm treeís showing, that I past on the way to Blacks school. Once in the town the parched sand on the side of the road certainly remind you of where you are. Noi tends to Blackís breakfast at one of the many food stalls usually some chicken breast on a bed of rice, while I go and see the usual gang in Rudyís restaurant bar opposite the school. As is the norm at that time of day there was just Rudy, myself and Herbert the German plumber in the place having  coffee, or that is Herbert and myself while Rudy drinks a coke or a beer depending how the night in the bar went the night before, well for myself and Herbert anyway but Rudy never complains. A very pleasant way to start the day, chatting about this and that, a little local news - like who is in the dog-house for doing what and to whom. More often than not some chat about world news, lately more than not about George Bush and his lap-dog Tony Blair and what is happening over that Iraq fiasco.  

By 8.30am itís off to work for me and Herbert while Rudy waits for his next group of customers of the day. As I remember this day it was straight back home to sort the email, deleting all the rubbish that you get as soon as you get on to a mailing list. However I donít mind that as sometimes you do get a little gem in that stuff. That day I had something to do after my emails as I ended up going out alone while Noi did her usual housework. Possibly going to the post office or something like that but nothing special. On the way back for some reason I decided to pay a visit to the airfield which was not the norm on a Friday but I must have had very little urgent work to do that day. Before I had to go to my appointment that I made with Mrs Watcharee at the art Gallery to take pictures for my up and coming Art site in the afternoon at 3pm. When I arrived at the airfield I found a lot of people milling around, many more than I expected to find at that time on a Friday morning. Then I remembered it was the day of Jumís flight test, something that I had known about from flying on Tuesday of that week but had managed to overlook in the melee of the weekís work.  

Jum is a young lady of 23 years, her real name is Penprapa Yoschai. She was born in Petchabun up- country and grew up with her mother as her father had disappeared when she was a baby. She finished a bachelor's degree (2 ½ years) at Ramkhamhaeng University Bangkok in 2001 majoring in International Economics. She began learning to fly airplanes when she was 21 year old, her first flight lessons where in a "Flight starĒ, first teacher is Mr. Jim Matonti. The next plane is a " Zenair CH701" the same air-craft that I am trying to learn in. But also in her pilotís log she has an hour in a helicopter. She is in stature what I would describe as willowee about 5í3Ē tall about 70 LB arms like matchstick in the nicest possible way of cause. However as with all Thai people looks can be most deceptive she may well be able to deliver a very powerful punch. Iíll let you know if I am ever on the wrong side of one. One of her ambitions is to go to America and become a flying instructor.  

Her flight training began in 2001 when she went to work for Jim, her adopted father as she calls him. She had known Tom Claytor who is a good friend of Jimís and it was he who introduced her as a young lady who could take care of the office for Jim. Tom is an American film actor who turns up

at the airfield in an old green Jeep with the wind screen down, very stylish. You know the sort, ruggedly handsome and he knows it. I am sure he would be a hit with many of the ladies out there.

If anybody out there has ever seen his name on the credits of a film please do let me know.

 Anyway back to Jum on her big day. While I was there at about 11.00am that morning the day was much as any other a slight cross wind blowing over the runway from the west, nothing more than an on-shore breeze. I learned that the Inspector from the Air Ministry was to arrive at 1.00pm, for Jumís test. So having chin-wagged a little I set off home to complete the one or two things that I had to do that day, now determined to be there for her test. 

So I returned by 1.00pm, with a load of water and Noi had decided to join me so we could see Jumís test then go straight on to pick up Black from school. Jumís Mother had arrived with her sister and a few other well wishers. Being Thai the table in the shade of one of the hangers was quickly laid with all sorts of Thai food, which even though I had never meet Jumís mother before that day I was invited too join in the consumption of. I was a little peckish but not so hungry that I was going to let it spoil my appetite for the stew I was going to have that evening.  

The inspector was late but by Thai standards on time - only half an hour late. Unfortunately by that time the wind was really getting up. Still from the west, making a 90 degree cross wind, but by now much more than an on-shore breeze. At that time of day it would normally have been an off-shore breeze from the east anyway. Jum was being put through the wringer on the ground by the inspector in the depths of Jimís hanger.

According to Jim, Jumís and my instructor, far more than he had ever seen before in the 25 or so years that he has been flying. Unfortunately the time was going on and it looked like I was not going to see the test because I had to pick up Black from school and then go on to the art gallery to take the pictures. So at 2.30pm, I had to leave without seeing anything. I dropped Noi off at the School, not dropping into Rudyís place for the customary afternoon natter, drove straight on up the hill to the art gallery, Noi and Black were to make there own way home. I got there and did the job, all the staff being very helpful, and within an hour I was finished. I bade them all goodbye and was off back to the airfield to see what had happened.  

When I arrived all I had missed was the take off and only then by about 5 minutes. They had waited for the wind to die down a little but the opposite happened, it got steadily stronger. More experienced pilots than I were saying it was a borderline decision whether to fly at all that day, by the time she took off. By now she was away, nowhere to be seen and by this time the airfield was not what you would call packed but there where more people there than I had ever seen there before, all coming to wish her well. Ten minutes or so went by and she re-appeared crossing the runway at 90 degrees from the east into the wind and as I had expected the engine cut to a tick-over just as she crossed the runway. This was going to be her emergency landing part of the test. With no power she had to do a 270 degree turn to the left as the wind - although it was almost directly across the runway - slightly favored runway 010 this is ten degrees off the north.  So although a left turn is a little easer than a right turn because of the prop-wash, she had to make that landing to fail this was to fail the test for sure.  

I had seen her do it earlier in the day but my heart was in my mouth as by now the wind was such that Jim would not have dared let me attempt a landing in conditions like this. She did it as perfectly as I have ever seen it done even by Jim, it was a touch and go with a no power, landing in a strong cross wind. Every one clapped and cheered, load enough for Jum to have heard it above the engine noise as she then powered away. This was a perfect landing dipping the left wing very slightly to accommodate the strong cross-wind. So she was off again for another half hour at least. I rescued some of the water that I had brought that morning and sat waiting for what had to be her final landing of the day and the results of her test.

 There was much talk of the weather conditions while we were all waiting with bated breath, the tapioca at the side of the runway was blowing in the wind and you know itís quite strong when you see that. By this time I wished I had brought a hat as it was lovely to sit there in the wind but even at 4.30pm, in the afternoon, the Thai sun is strong with the temperature being in the low thirties C. somewhere in the low nineties Fahrenheit.  She finally appeared joining the pattern at 500 feet, 45 degrees from the north east and making the last right hand turns before her final approach of the day. 

Despite the strong wind the last landing was as good as you can get. We were all very eagerly waiting, not so patiently, for the result.  Looking for signs of smiles as she taxied back down the runway. We could see smiles as she came to a halt not far from us all waiting there. Were these smiles of joy at a good result or nervous smiles to hide great disappointment?  No one could tell.  

They disappeared into Jimís hanger; this examiner was a pig.  Never mind Jum, the whole audience was on tenterhooks waiting for the news. Again there was much discussion as to what the meaning was of the smiles. Eventually she was released from her torment and emerged from the hanger still smiling and our wait was rewarded - she had passed and took her place in Thai history at least, as the first Thai lady Ultra Light pilot.  

The Party then began with many hugs and kisses and a table full of crisps, chicken wings, sausages. Oh to hell with the stew; I was starving. With all those hugs and kisses I am glad it was a young lady not a bloke, who would have had the water pipe used to water the runway turned on him. 

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