Flying High

Susan Larson1

Susan Larson describes her experiences as an aviator during a recent Rotary Club meeting.

Local Rotarians got into the spirit of adventure during Tuesday’s regular meeting at the Manhattan Project Restaurant in downtown Los Alamos.
Whether it was hearing about opportunities to visit other Rotary clubs in Louisiana, England and India through the Rotary Friendship Exchanges, learning about Rotarian Victor Medina ditching retirement to go into the restaurant business or listening to Santa Fe Aviator Susan Larson describe dodging storms in a single engine plane during this year’s Air Race Classic, the Los Alamos Rotary Club buckled up for a variety of thrilling rides.
During a brief classification talk, during which Rotarians share a bit of their life story, Medina revealed that retirement from Los Alamos National Laboratory did not suit him.
“I was bored to tears,” he said.
Although he had no prior work experience in a restaurant other than bartending in college, Medina decided to go into the business.
“I don’t know what possessed me to buy a restaurant,” Medina said.
But buy one he did. Medina purchased the Dixie Girl Restaurant in November 2013. It was renamed the Manhattan Project in February. Working in a restaurant may be absent from his resume, but Medina admitted he loves to be in the kitchen.
Medina was not the only one at the meeting to be adventurous. Larson described her experience competing in this year’s Air Race Classic, in which female pilots race from California to Pennsylvania in four days.
Larson earned ninth place in the competition, which had 110-115 participants. The competition is fierce, she said.
“The whole thing is full throttle,” Larson said. “This race is so tight that seconds count for first, second, third place.”
Larson showed Rotarians a diagram of the desired route to take at one of the stops along the race. It was a smooth, gentle-looking curve. The next diagram revealed what she ended up doing, which appeared as a squiggly-loop-de-loop. The reason, she explained, was storms were quickly approaching and Larson was forced to do several detours to avoid them. She advised her co-pilot, Amy Ecclesine, to close her eyes and buckle up.
In addition to racing across country, Larson is a member, as well as past president, of the Ninety-Nines. The organization, which is exclusively for women aviators, was founded 1929 with the mission to celebrate, educate and support aviation. One of its other past presidents was Amelia Earhart. Today, there are 5,000 members who range in age from 17 to 103.
As well as flying planes, the Ninety-Nines award scholarships and help preserve the history of women in aviation. They maintain and run the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum.
“We are the primary source of history of women pilots in the world,” Larson said.


Susan Larson2

Rotarians listen to Past President James Nesmith introduce Susan Larson.

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