Hi Reddit! I am Captain Lynn Rippelmeyer.

My aviation career started when I became a Trans World Airlines flight attendant at a time when there were no female pilots. I took flying lessons as a hobby that turned into a career, first as a flight instructor then as a commuter pilot for Air Illinois. That led to my positions as a pilot at Trans World Airlines, Seaboard World Airlines, People Express, Continental Airlines, and United.

As an aviation pioneer and one of the first female pilots in the industry, I feel I have a message to share which I do through public speaking and soon to be published books.

Ask me anything!

Edit: Thank you so much for your comments and interest in my life and my career. I enjoyed talking with all of you and if you want to know more about me feel free to check out my website lynnrippelmeyer.com.

Comments: 678 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

spl1t1nf1n1t1ve340 karma

I read in your Wikipedia profile that you & Capt Emilie Jones were initially not allowed to fly together and then not allowed to tell the passengers that it was an all-woman crew - on what ended up being the first all-woman crew on a US scheduled flight? Is this accurate and what are your memories of this incident?

LynnRippelmeyer594 karma

Yes, that is true. The facts are that Emilie got hired at Air Illinois 3 months before I did. When I got hired I was told I would not be scheduled to fly with her and that remained true for three months until on a stormy New Year's Eve no on could get to the airport but the two of us. We were told we could take the flight but to keep the doors closed and not make any announcements. The explanation was that a man had to be up there in case anything went wrong and we don't want to scare our passengers away. After a successful flight when no one complained or died we were able to fly together like any other crew. The owner of the airline did later send me a congratulatory letter when he found out I was the first female 747 pilot.

Logofascinated197 karma

Q1. Do you think the gender split for pilots (and, for that matter, other male-dominated occupations in the aviation industry) will achieve parity any time in the foreseeable future? Or will these always be seen as mainly "jobs for the guys"?

Q2. 747 pilots tend to be very enthusiastic about the "Queen of the Skies". What, in your opinion, makes this such a well-loved plane among pilots (aside from its gorgeous appearance and iconic status among the general public)?

Q3. If you could fly any type of aircraft that ever existed, even just for a short distance, what would you choose?

Lastly, thank you for doing this AMA.

LynnRippelmeyer326 karma

Q1.I'm at a loss to understand why the percentage of women pilots has not increased in recent years. The opportunities are there, the job's fantastic. I wish more women would come join us.

Q2. Its landing gear allows it to make one of the softest, smoothest landings possible. Its size makes it stable. The "feel" that has been created for the controls makes it an extension of your own body. It's reliable and safe and you know she will take care of you if you take care of her. She looks like she's floating coming in on approach.

Q3. Take a guess....yes the 747.She was my first jet and will always be my favorite

KuntaStillSingle18 karma


Do you think military disparity has much to do with it? I.e. more men choosing to go into air force or military aviation, and therefore more men ending up on a fast track for a pilot's license?

LynnRippelmeyer64 karma

Actually, the military accepting woman has increased the number of female pilots. When I was training the military was not an option for women.

phoenyx198015 karma

Re Q1, do you have a family? Kids? I'd say many women find it difficult to spend that length of time away from their kids. The shift work and days away at a time aren't exactly conducive to bonding.

Source: child of international pilot

LynnRippelmeyer43 karma

It honestly is tough at the beginning of the career unless you have a great support system. As you gain seniority the flexibility and options are ideal for family life. You couldn't ask for a better job to provide an amazing family vacation.

Upbeat_Pangolin_5929141 karma

I’m still a nervous flyer, despite having to fly all over the world as part of my job. Is there anything that you can share with me that might calm my nerves, especially during severe turbulence?

LynnRippelmeyer393 karma

The amount of technology that has gone into the machine and the amount of training the pilot has had to go through makes your plane ride safer than your drive to the airport. I know you don't like the feeling of being out of control, I don't like being a passenger either. I know of no other profession that checks the health and ability of their employees as often and as thoroughly as pilots. You are in good hands.

Chosen_undead19130 karma

Who was your inspiration?

LynnRippelmeyer241 karma

Bonnie Tiburzi at American Airlines and Emily Warner Howell at Frontier were my mentors. Hearing that they had been hired as pilots let me know that it was possible for me to become a pilot.

zheil9152112 karma

What was your scariest moment as a pilot?

LynnRippelmeyer308 karma

My scariest moment was actually as a flight instructor. Flight instructors are expected to put a student in a dangerous situation and see if they react the way they were taught. I had to wait for a student to make the right choice and he froze and I almost didn't gain control before we hit the ground.

diffcalculus80 karma

...did he pass?

LynnRippelmeyer302 karma

He ended up choosing another hobby....it's not for everyone.

jrsobx46 karma

My second solo involved going to the practice area and practicing stalls, etc. I was set up for my first stall, the plane was dirty, pointed straight up and losing speed quickly. Just as the stall horn went off, the seat latch broke. I'm fairly short, so I quickly slid back towards the tail, unable to reach the controls!! I nearly needed new underwear. I think that flight is logged as point 3 hours in my logbook.

LynnRippelmeyer34 karma

Once you let go of the yoke did the nose come down and recover? How'd you get out of that one?

kausthubnarayan11 karma

If you don’t mind me asking, how did you feel about the following couple of classes after this incident where you had to test them with the said ordeal.

Did you mention this incident to them as a lesson or any specific instructions were touched upon before take off?

Thank you for doing this AMA.

LynnRippelmeyer21 karma

No, I didn't share that unfortunate story with any other student.

vacsadX99 karma

At what age did you decided to be a pilot?

LynnRippelmeyer152 karma

I decided to start taking flying lessons as a hobby at age 22.

HYThrowaway198066 karma

My uncle used to captain 747’s for Iberia. He says the transition to Airbus turned piloting into a video game, and he hated it.

What was your experience of the transition to computer-based aeronautics? Do you prefer the experience of flying modern planes or older planes?

EDIT: My uncle is the one on the right. He used to fly the Madrid-Anchorage leg of the old Tokyo route and a couple of other North American destinations, but most of his flights were to South America. Guessing you never crossed paths with him…

LynnRippelmeyer36 karma

I agree.

japadz63 karma

Do you think there will be any permanent changes to aviation following the covid pandemic?

LynnRippelmeyer97 karma

The importance of air circulation and sanitization will be important to airplanes and airports long term, but it seems like things are already returning to normal. People love to travel and I don't see that going away any time soon.

El_Bard056 karma

Are you sad to see aircraft like the 747 no longer in use, or was it time for them to go? It's kind of hard to get excited about new airlines, specially considering how troubled the 787 has been and the A380 was largely a bust.

LynnRippelmeyer80 karma

Yes, I'm sad the 747 go. I understand it had to for economic reasons, 4 engines use a lot more fuel than 2, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

Furry_comrade54 karma

What is the hardest approach you've ever done?

LynnRippelmeyer95 karma

Tegucigalpa is the most challenging and had to be done manually.

TheRealLifeJesus49 karma

How do you feel about the current downward trend of pilot pay, and the continuing trend of automation in the industry?

Would you recommend a young person to pursue a career considering they might not become a major airline pilot 30 years from now?

LynnRippelmeyer99 karma

I haven't seen the trend in pilot pay. The trend towards automation does make the type of person that would want to be an airline pilot today different from that of the past. The role of pilot is evolving with automation. You're going to have to enjoy this career every step of the way instead of waiting for the ultimate end goal. I wouldn't recommend going into the career for the money. It is a very cyclical industry and uncertain path so you have to enjoy every step of the way and accept the unknown.

Murphysburger40 karma

Air Illinois! Did you get your initial flight training at SIU?

LynnRippelmeyer39 karma

No, I got my initial training in Vermont on a J3 Piper Cub on floats and completed initial training Tamiami airport near Miami.

depolkun32 karma

Is landing a jet all automatic? Or do you have to control it and set it down gently? How does it feel and does it make you nervous when you do it?

LynnRippelmeyer58 karma

The most modern airplanes give the pilot the option of manual or automatic landing depending on the ability at the airport, the airplane, and the pilot's training. Landing a plane is one of the best feelings in the world. Yes, it's adrenaline producing but I wouldn't say it makes me nervous.

depolkun24 karma

Follow up questions is, when will airplanes become fully automatic to a point where an airline could opt to save on cost by only having just one experienced or a single junior pilot aboard just in case of emergencies? Also, does the airport control towers have the ability to take remote control of your aircraft during take off and landing and if not, when do you think such realities will be be made real?

Edit./ no idea why I'm getting downvoted it was a legitimate question. Automation is happening and progressing whether we like it or not.

LynnRippelmeyer48 karma

I think the technology is already there to allow unpiloted aircraft to transport passengers but I don't think human beings will accept it.

The control tower cannot take control of an airplane, the best they can do is give advice to the pilot.

Zenith_is_a_meme31 karma

What’s your favorite thing about being a pilot?

LynnRippelmeyer70 karma

I'm struggling to pick one thing. Every day is different, the views are incredible, learning about different cultures and people, it's never boring, you're constantly learning, working with a team to get people where they want to go safely, and the flexibility of the schedule. It was a great job for a single mom.

bedaan10 karma

Were you ever able to fly with your kid(s) with you?

LynnRippelmeyer39 karma

I've taken them up in small airplanes but they had no interest to the point that they fell asleep! They've been on commercial flights where I was the pilot as well.

sydney__carton28 karma

What’s your favorite airport to fly into?

LynnRippelmeyer59 karma

Tegucigalpa in Honduras. It's one of the most challenging in the world so it's never boring.

gweilo888811 karma

Did you ever get to fly into Kai Tak's runway 13, and if so where would you rate it in terms of the challenge? I used to live in Hong Kong back in the day and anecdotally it was said to be among the most challenging, but a friend's dad was a Dragonair captain (and later became a training captain for them) and IIRC he told me it was one of the easiest airports they flew into. I'm curious how much of that was down to it being the airport he was most familiar with, and how much of it was the challenge being overstated.

LynnRippelmeyer12 karma

No, I haven't ever flown into that airport.

Texansfan99108 karma

Plus, it’s just a hop over to Roatán. ;-)

LynnRippelmeyer7 karma

Yes, it is!

mediocre_medstudent128 karma

Was this a long-time goal of yours that you worked towards or did the opportunity just present itself one day?

Have you ever received negative reactions or derogatory comments from passengers or colleagues about you being a female captain? If so, how do you handle these situations?

LynnRippelmeyer55 karma

No, it wasn't a long-term goal of mine, when I was a child it wasn't a possibility. I was able to get where I did by preparing for and saying yes to every opportunity as it came by.

The negative comments had to be handled with tact, patience, and humor. At times it was trying but it has increasingly improved to the point that I think the negative comments are less pervasive.

mediocre_medstudent126 karma

Thank you for being a trailblazer for so many others, as a young woman in health care I get my fair share of questionable comments and I find it admirable and inspiring that women like you were willing to take on these challenges years before now!

LynnRippelmeyer23 karma

Thank you and back attcha!

Deuuuce26 karma

What was your most memorable moment in your pilot career? Thanks for the AMA!

LynnRippelmeyer81 karma

My most memorable moment is what we're celebrating today, the transatlantic 747 flight that changed my life. It led to round the world media attention, a BBC special, and an award in England where I met Princess Anne.

granulario26 karma

How many hours did you have to fly before you could?

LynnRippelmeyer48 karma

Each license has a minimum amount of hours to be able to achieve that level. Most major airlines require 1500 hours.

InitechSecurity26 karma

How harder is it to control a 747 compared to a 787 or A320?

LynnRippelmeyer50 karma

I haven't flown an A320. The 747 and 787 are just different, neither is easier but I prefer the feel and the response to input of the 747.

christopherbrian24 karma

Have you had any UAP encounters?

LynnRippelmeyer26 karma

No, but I wish I had!

BarneyTheCrackhead20 karma

What advice would you give to young women wanting to get into aviation?

LynnRippelmeyer70 karma

Go take an introduction flight to see if you like it. If you come back wanting more, sign up for lessons. Don't let social norms get in the way, the plane doesn't know or care about your gender. In today's environment, you can go as far as you want as a female pilot and there are so many options for how to use your training.

lotty54119 karma

How does it feel being the first woman captain to pilot that plane type/journey? Is there any pressure or anything that comes with it that makes it not sunshine and rainbows?

LynnRippelmeyer58 karma

It was fantastic and fun since I'd had the opportunity to fly the jet as a first officer 4 years earlier so a lot of the stress of training was lessened and I was able to just enjoy the experience. The pressure of knowing that the world is watching and concluding whether or not a woman can do it was a little heavy on the shoulders.

Dirty_Old_Town18 karma

I've wanted to fly on a 747 ever since I was a kid - is there still a chance? Seems like fewer and fewer airlines are using them for passenger flights.

LynnRippelmeyer30 karma

You would likely have to go to Asia to fly on a 747 passenger flight.

Kitchissippika17 karma

I love flying and would love to be a pilot. The problem is I'm extremely mathematically deficient. Like, embarrassingly so. Frequent simple mistakes are extremely likely. How much of a disadvantage would that be from getting your pilots license in a Cessna all the way up to becoming a commercial pilot?

LynnRippelmeyer28 karma

Math seems to be becoming less and less important as aviation becomes more automated. You won't know unless you try.

snuggleouphagus16 karma

What airport is your favorite layover? Which city is your favorite overnight stop when you have multi day trips?

LynnRippelmeyer44 karma

All of the European cities spring to mind. Paris, Rome, Milan, London, and Frankfurt all have different attractions and reasons to want to spend time there. Hong Kong and Taiwan were interesting but there were too many people. I love the South American and Central American culture so it's always fun to stay there.

My favorite layover spot is from a long time ago when we flew into Gatwick outside of London and stayed at the Copthorne hotel. It had a pond with swans out front, comfy couches, windows you could open to let the fresh air in, and a barkeep that recommended a spot of sherry before going to bed. It's where I first saw a cricket match and drank shandy.

FireFlashX3214 karma

What would you say to a woman in her mid twenties who had given up her dream to become a pilot?

LynnRippelmeyer38 karma

It's not too late. Go for it. The time is going to pass anyways. You can either look back and know that you tried or regret that you didn't.

I didn't get my first airline job until I was 26 and you can get the training that took me 4 years in 6 months now.

coffeeinhaler13 karma

Were there any memorable reactions to you piloting the Boeing 747?

LynnRippelmeyer28 karma

Both positive and negative. I had people want my autograph and I had people demand to get off the airplane when they found out I was the pilot. I received love letters and hate mail.

jzhowie10 karma

Were you born with the awesome surname or was it assigned when you got your wings?

Sincerely, Someone who doesn't have a pilot worthy surname.

LynnRippelmeyer18 karma

I was lucky enough to be born with that one and refused to give it up!

NeuralWarfare9 karma

Good evening and thank you for the AmA. And congratulations for such an outstanding career, it must have been so hard and amazing. Would you do it all again in today's times, or are there changes that would make you hesitate?

LynnRippelmeyer19 karma

There are changes that I think would make it less enjoyable but I think I would still give it a go. I would still enjoy having my office 7 miles in the sky. The acceptance, I think would be easier and not having to hassle with the negative social reaction.

TheShishkabob9 karma

How often do you fly with female co-pilots? Do you find that women become captains at a lesser rate than they do co-pilots in your experience?

LynnRippelmeyer18 karma

I flew with female crew members on occasion throughout my career but probably less than 10% of the time. It's fairly unlikely to have a female captain and a female first officer on the same flight. I did have a woman as my first officer going into Tegucigalpa several times.

ramdomdoge27728 karma

Which plane did you flew the most besides the 747? Ever flew an airbus or a bush plane?

LynnRippelmeyer10 karma

The 737 and no I have not. I had my first lesson and first solo in a J3 Piper Cub on floats.

searanger62-15 karma

Do pilots ever have sex in the cockpit?

LynnRippelmeyer9 karma

Not to my knowledge.