Only one L-139 … and the ship is mine

The L-139 is the only jet of its kind in the world. Aero Vodochody, an aircraft manufacturer in the Czech Republic, produced the L-39, which was the most popular fighter jet trainer in the world. They went on to produce the L-159 as an advanced trainer.

The L-139 was produced as the demo for a military contract that Aero-Vodochy was pursuing with the United States. In an effort to secure the contract, a Western engine was installed: the Garrett TFE-731. The contract was never awarded to AV, so the ship was used for promotion for a very short time and then placed on the “back lot.” It had a total of 500 hours on it when it was taken out of service. As the jet was a production aircraft (as opposed to experimental) it is eligible to race in the Reno Air Race as a stock jet in the jet class. So, in 2015, with my good friend Vicky Benzing in the cockpit,  our team, Darkstar, placed fifth in the Gold class and overall. A very formidable debut considering she was 800 lbs. heavier than the L-39s in the class. We made history as the first female-owned-and-piloted race team at Reno. You can watch her fly at Reno at this link:

After I purchased her, she underwent a total renovation, which took over 2,700 hours. In selecting the paint  I wanted to honor her roots in the Czech Republic. The lion on the tail was the starting point, as it is the Czech emblem. He faces forward–a defensive position. The top of the wings echo the design of his double tail, and I chose the colors to reflect the boldness of the aircraft. The paint, in fact, was the biggest contributor to the  weight, as these three colors are the heaviest of paints. On the belly of the aircraft is the lion, as well. As the airplane makes left turns at the Reno Air Races, his claw points to the sky.

The interior is what I wanted–a girl’s ship. No rough edges, the latest in technology and style. I fought tooth and nail, so to speak, to retain the missiles, bombs and guns switches  on the panel. When piloting it, however, there is nothing that makes it feel like a weapons trainer. Flying it is just a pure vL-139 stitchoguish joy!


NOTAM: Stanger Steps Down as President of Whirly-Girls International

Jean Ross Howard Phelan, Whirly-Girl #13, founded Whirly-Girls in 1955 so that female helicopter pilots could share information and camaraderie. She was one of 13 charter members representing women helicopter pilots from France, Germany and the United States.

Jean Ross Howard Phelan
Jean Ross Howard Phelan

Today there are more than 1,900 registered members representing 45 countries. Whirly-Girls is a nonprofit, educational and charitable organization dedicated to advancing women in helicopter aviation and an official affiliate member of the Helicopter Association International.

I have been honored to follow in the footsteps of women aviation pioneers like Jean, to serve as Whirly-Girls’ VP of Operations since 2012 … and since 2014 as its President. Our vision and goals have grown with our membership … to encompass the promotion of women in the helicopter industry through scholarships, mentoring, public appearances, press releases, magazine articles, and informational displays in aviation museums. Today our scholarship endowment manages $175,000 in scholarship awards, helping women worldwide to achieve their rotary wing aviation goals.

Of all the progress we have made as an organization in recent years, I am most proud of the “Give It A Whirl” event we developed for Heli-Expo, the world’s largest helicopter trade show, to introduce youth to helicopters and pilots. At Heli-Expo 2016 in Louisville, hundreds of kids eagerly explored Louisville police and news helicopters and took in displays by local helicopter flight school JR Aviation, WOAWBell Helicopter, X-Copter flight simulator, Heliweb Magazine and RC Helicopters. I salute the dozens of Whirly-Girls who volunteered at Give it a Whirl to mentor and educate attendees on helicopters and the aviation industry.

Helicopters were my first ride to the sky, 22 years ago, and I remain devoted to the sisterhood of helicopter pilots. But the commitment required to fulfill the role of President of such a growing and vibrant organization exceeds the time that I am able to dedicate to such worthwhile efforts.

As I sign off–with both satisfaction and sadness– I offer my final salute to the Whirly- Girls’ board of directors, whose talent and dedication inspire me. I know that Whirly-Girls will continue to gain altitude with you at the controls.

And to all my fellow Whirly-Girls worldwide, I’ll see you in the sky.

First in Flight … Podcast with iWOAW

Greetings from the airwaves. Listen along as Mireille Goyer- president of iWOAW, and  Howie Marlin, Co-Host and Producer of iWOAW Radio, interview me. Honored to be the first on air with iWOAW Radio-Changing The Face Of Aviation, Podcast Numero Uno. Thanks  Mireille and Howie for all the time to talk about what I love best–flying and flying machines.