Arty's 2009 Ultimate Ultralight Adventure

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What this is all about?
Why are you doing this? (The answer to the question: "Is she CRAZY!?!?!")
Do you really think you can do this?
Will you write about the flight en route? (The answer to the question "How will we know if you're still alive?)

Arty and Drifter


After my family, I have two passions: flying my ultralight*, and – through my public speaking and consulting - challenging people to transform their self-limiting beliefs into irresistible expectations…to move out of their comfort zone and into their courage zone.

I'm about to launch an adventure that combines these two passions. I'm going to fly my ultralight* from Sandy, Oregon (on the western slopes of Mt. Hood,) to the 2nd largest air show in the United States: Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida...and back to Oregon. The round-trip flight will cover approximately 7500 miles and take 7-8 weeks. Along the way I'll be carrying the message of striking out boldly in the direction of your dreams.

For those of you who aren't familiar with ultralights, my 1984 Maxair Drifter* is sometimes referred to as an irrigation pipe with a plastic seat, wings and an engine. And that pretty much describes it. It weighs 320 lbs. empty, and is powered by a Rotax 503 snowmobile-type engine. I can be in the air for about 2.5 hrs. before I need to land and refuel. How many miles I can cover in that amount of time is completely dependent on the weather. I cruise at about 55-60 miles per hour – if there's no wind. With a strong headwind my speed can drop as low as 25-30 mph!

*(Technically, my Drifter is an ultralight-type registered Experimental Light Sport Aircraft.)

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? (The answer to the question: "Is she CRAZY!?!?!")

At first, this was all about the flying adventure. In my speaking presentations, I urge audiences to create "big, hairy, bodacious goals" for themselves. This extreme flight is MY big, hairy, bodacious goal. For the past eight years I've made ultra-long ultralight flights, yet nothing as ambitious as this one. Flying to Florida and back has become more than a goal; it's become an obsession!

As others heard about my dream, many contacted me, saying that my flight was an inspiration to them, and that just hearing about what I was planning caused them to question their own self-imposed limits. I realized that I could use this flight as a platform to carry my message of thinking boldly and living life with passion.

I KNOW that we all can achieve our dreams, even if others tell us it's impossible. As a 65 year old woman, I've been told throughout my life that certain goals weren't possible for me, due to my gender—and later, due to my age. I've listened, and continued on with my plans. With determination, perseverance, and preparation, I know we can spread our wings and fly higher and further than we ever thought possible.

I'm passionate about sharing this message, especially with girls and women. I believe that as they see what another woman is able to accomplish – in a sport that has very, very few women – it will inspire them to dream big and live life fully. Lynda Meeks, the founder of Girls With Wings, says: "Research has proven that we can expose our girls to the opportunities available to them, but unless we can give them real life examples of women who have achieved their dreams, girls have difficulty picturing themselves doing the same." I believe that's true for "grown up girls" as well."

I decided to use this flight to promote Girls With Wings, an organization using women in aviation to encourage girls to reach their full potential. I'll bring "Penelope Pilot" along on the flight. The Penelope Pilot Projecttm seeks to increase girls' participation in aviation events and activities, as well as encourage girls to test their wings in other ways. Lynda Meeks and I would love to see grandmothers and their granddaughters come out to some of the airports along my route to get their picture taken next to my ultralight, holding Penelope Pilot. (No demonstration flights—this is a single-seat aircraft.)

Other organizations such as The 99's (an international association of women pilots) and Spunky Old Broad (an organization proving that women over 50 can lead active, vibrant lives) are also excited about the flight and helping out. You'll be seeing links to other partnering organizations soon in my blog about the flight.


I wouldn't attempt such a flight if I didn't think I could do it successfully. I have absolutely no death wish! I've been flying my MaxAir Drifter for 19 years. Beginning in 2000, I've made at least one multi-week, multi-state flight each year. My longest flight so far took 19 days and covered 4300 miles.

At first it looked as though I'd be making the flight by myself….and I do have a lot of fears about that. Then, to my great joy, a good friend and flying buddy called to tell me he wants to fly the entire route with me, if he can get his ultralight ready in time. And other ultralight pilots have shown interest in joining us at various points, for varying amounts of time. That will decrease the risks exponentially! We'll be camping most of the time and we're looking forward to meeting other flying enthusiasts along the way.

WILL YOU WRITE ABOUT THE FLIGHT EN ROUTE? (The answer to the question "How will we know if you're still alive?)

You'll be able to follow the flight online via a blog on this website. I'll include pictures and details of the flight. I'll probably begin the blog about the middle of March, writing about what we're doing to prepare for the flight: preflight planning, logistical support details, discussion of weather and other issues. I'll publish a map as part of the blog.

Right now, our plan is to leave on Saturday, March 28, fly south through western Oregon into California following I-5. We'll connect with I-10 in southern California and follow it east to Florida and Sun 'n Fun. The return flight will take us slightly further north, through Oklahoma and northern New Mexico, to Monument Valley, the Great Salt Lake, Idaho and back into Oregon. The flight will be approximately 7500 miles and will take approximately seven weeks. Of course, weather will be the deciding factor as to how we'll tweak our flight route plans.

So wish us clear skies and tailwinds in both directions! Check back in mid-March to read up on our doings.

Route Map

Route Map
(Click on the image to view the full sized map).