Valley pilot heads to Nepal for pilot conference |

Valley pilot heads to Nepal for pilot conference

by Linda Hiller, Staff Writer

Linda Mae Draper traveled for four days and nights round trip from Reno to Kathmandu, Nepal just to talk to women pilots about flight training in the United States.

Draper is the co-founder of NIFTI, Nevada International Flight and Transportation Industries, a flight instruction facility in Minden. In 1995, she and Roger Hivert founded the company aimed at teaching all levels of flying from beginners to commercial, multi-engine and airline transport pilots and specializing in teaching international pilots.

Draper’s Nepal trip was to attend the third installment of the World Aviation Education and Safety Congress, sponsored by the Ninety Nines Inc., and organized by the Indian Women Pilots Association. There were 150 people in attendance at the three-day conference – mostly women pilots or aviation professionals representing six countries, Draper said.

“I met lots of interesting pilots there,” she said. “There was Barbara Barret, the first civilian woman to land a Hornet on an aircraft carrier and Capt. Suzanna Darcy, the first female test pilot for Boeing.”

There was also Capt. Nivedita Bhasin, the first lady check pilot for Indian Airlines, Capt. Trish Wood of Federal Express and Capt. Nancy Aldrich, who retired this year from flying 767s for United Airlines. Draper said being surrounded by so many high-level female pilots was inspiring.

“It made me so proud to be a part of the world of flying,” she said. “For my presentation, I tried to stress that there are more opportunities to fly professionally besides just being an airline pilot. There are hospital pilots, firefighting tanker pilots, corporation pilots, ambulance pilots and don’t forget astronauts. We really need astronauts to go out there in space and explore.”

Draper has been flying for more than three dozen years. In 1978, she received an airplane for Christmas and she and her former husband formed Casino Air. She’s been in the air ever since, as a glider pilot, an Alaskan bush pilot, a pilot on the Virgin Islands, a firefighting tanker pilot and a fish-spotting pilot.

“Flying is such a part of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it,” she said.

– Side trip. After the congress, Draper and a friend and student from Incline Village stayed in Nepal.

“This was actually my second trip to Nepal,” she said. “I went there in 1987 and trekked around Everest. I love it there – the people are very happy and friendly. I never dreamt I’d go again, though.”

Draper’s side trip included flying next to Mount Everest as a passenger and visiting a wildlife preserve, the Royal Chitwan National Park, where she rode an elephant into the bush and saw wild birds, rhinos, water buffaloes and more.

“That was awesome,” she said. “They’d ride several of us on one elephant, and the trainers would make elephant sandwiches for them, with rice wrapped inside these big leaves that the elephants like.”

Draper said the airport used to travel to the wildlife preserve had a grass surface, and the airport at the capital of Kathmandu was relatively primitive compared to Reno.

“Kathmandu is really a nice city,” she said. “The people are so friendly, the hotels can be beautiful and I may go back because at the conference they talked to me about setting up a flight school in Nepal. Right now they don’t have one, so their pilots have to train elsewhere.”

NIFTI is located at the Minden-Tahoe Airport. For more information, call 782-4381.