- Publisher: Book Baby
- Edition: 2nd
- Available in: Softcover, eBook
- ISBN: 9781543978247
- Published: August 10, 2019
The book you’re about to read recounts the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of a woman airline pilot. It is not the first work on the subject, but it’s the best I’ve ever read- fair, funny, and inspiring to any girl harboring the same dreams that Meryl Getline made come true.
It also will be reassuring to any airline passenger who might develop a sudden case of white knuckles when a female voice on the cabin PA announces: “This is your captain speaking.” I have no doubt such fears were not unusual when women airline pilots were about as numerous as surviving dinosaurs. Now there are hundreds of them, many wearing the coveted four stripes of captain, and the chauvinistic prejudices they once faced have gone into the same limbo as the “Coffee, Tea, or Me?” stigma that once libeled flight attendants.
Meryl Getline was among the first of her sex to crash the barriers of professional discrimination in the airline industry, yet like most of these pioneering pilots, hers was a personal crusade, not a desire to become a flying Susan B. Anthony trying to make a point by making loud noises. That was the case also for Emily Howell, the nation’s first female airline pilot in moden times who went on to become a Frontier Airlines captain.
It also was true of those who followed her, including Madeline “Mimi” Tompkins. On April 28, 1988, she was the first officer on an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 that lost 220 feet of the upper fuselage, causing an explosive decompression that injured every passenger and sucked a flight attendant out of the aircraft. Tompkins’ professionalism in helping the captain land the crippled airliner safely brought widespread praise and eventually won her upgrading to captain.
Meryl Getline is cut out of the same cloth as Howell and Tompkins, yet her story is refreshingly different in many respects, full of as much wry humor as the frustrating barriers she encountered. She obtained her first-and unsuccessful airline interview because the carrier she had applied to thought “Meryl” was a man’s name. But from then on, her experiences as a trainee and eventual promotion into jetliner cockpits is a textbook lesson in perseverance, patience, and determination. Her narrative is even more inspirational because her motivation was not resentment against the industry’s reluctance to hire women pilots, but was based purely on a love of flying that dated back to childhood.
It is for this thick vein of objectivity that runs through her the story that The World At My Feet deserves to be categorized as an aviation classic. The bonus is Meryl’s sense of humor-her encounter with a Goodyear blimp when she was an air traffic controller is worth the price of the book all by itself. Another bonus, I submit, is that it may reform a few males whose negative views on female competence usually are expressed by bel lowing: “Those#$*# women drivers!”
Meryl Getline reminds us how far we’ve come since the days when even the world’s most famous woman pilot, Amelia Earhart, was subjected to a patronizing kind of prejudice. In 1929 an airline hired her supposedly to help promote air travel among women-she was given the fancy title of “assistant to the general traffic manager.” Her hiring was simply a publicity stunt involving the launching of the carrier’s 48-hour air-rail transcontinental service, using an airplane for the daytime legs and trains by night. But she went solely as a passenger, after christening the airplane for photographers, and her employment lasted only until the inaugural trip was completed.
A personal postscript…
Some years ago, the Aviation/Space Writers Association held its annual convention in Atlanta, and I suggested that one of the events should include a news conference featuring women pilots from the airlines and military. I made a point of insisting that they wear their uniforms. I had a hunch this would impress the hell out of any chauvinistic colleagues in attendance. It sure did. They showed up as instructed, and the sighs of admiration would have created a 20-knot headwind on a runway. I remember one of the airline pilots was the daughter of cowboy movie star Clint Walker-she was a copilot with Western Airlines, a tall, beautiful blonde. The Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard had provided equally impressive women pilots, and they all fielded questions with polished skill. After reading her book, I wish we had invited Meryl Getline, too. She would have belonged right up there on that podium.
Robert J. Serling Former Aviation editor
United Press International
The book comes in softcover, ebook, and audio format. You can purchase the book by making your selection below.