The Liberty Gazette
July 29, 2014Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: It’s been a few years since we shared a post-race banquet table with Mary and Lawrence Latimer, but I’m honored to be working with Mary in the upcoming Pinch Hitter course August 16 at the West Houston Airport. Designed to teach non-pilot flying companions how to land an airplane in case of emergency, the course will last the full day and only cost the price of lunch, thanks to many gifted and generous volunteers, such as Mary Latimer.
Mary is an amazing woman. She is even amazing among all the amazing women I know. Her non-traditional flight school in Vernon, Texas provides just a peek into the lady who doesn’t believe in "can’t".
Mary uses her experience to encourage and to teach, and who better qualified than one person who has done it all. Not only is she a corporate pilot and a certified flight instructor, she is also one of few FAA designated examiners, meaning she gives the practical tests in the airplane (and decides whether a pilot gets a license); she is also not only a licensed airframe and power plant mechanic, but also a level above that, an FAA authorized Inspector, meaning she is the person who can sign airplane logbooks for any type of work done. Not only is she all that, but she was also an air traffic controller, and a 2013 Flight Instructor of the Year.
Nothing’s changed much over the last 100 years. Women still comprise only 6% of the pilot population. But Mary wanted to find out if she could identify what causes women to start flight training and then stop, not realizing their dreams. Then she could attack the causes and find a way to overcome the obstacles to flight training that are unique to women.
So began Girls In Flight Training, or G.I.F.T., a week-long camp held each July in Vernon for women to start on their dream, or finish the training they abandoned, totally free.
And lest you think husband Lawrence is a stand-by, try this on: commercial pilot, flight instructor, helicopter instructor, airframe and power plant mechanic, corporate pilot, and Vietnam Veteran serving in the Army as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne, "Screaming Eagles". Mary calls him the biggest supporter of women in aviation.
The Latimers’ daughter Tamara Griffith, a former corporate and freight pilot, joins them as one of the instructors for G.I.F.T. week, as she takes time off from her own business of flight instructing and airplane mechanic-ing in the Dallas area. She and her mom are likely the only mother-daughter pair with FAA Inspector Authorizations, let alone all their other credentials.
And are you ready for this? Granddaughter Amanda has joined the family’s focused venture. Not only is she one of the youngest female certified flight instructors, she is likely the youngest Gold Seal instructor, fulfilling more stringent requirements to achieve that recognition. Let’s not let it stop there. Amanda is one of a small handful of female crop dusters, too.
The accomplishments of the Latimer – Griffith family are amazing, and one could accept if they were full of themselves, but they’re not looking for the spotlight. This is a family of humble givers who just wants to encourage others to make use of the life God gave them.
I’ll meet you at the well in Vernon, Texas. I want some of that water too.