Log in
Parker County

Female Blackhawk pilot encourages others to fly high


Elizabeth McCormick doesn’t believe in gender barriers. She believes in dreams, creating, and capitalizing on opportunities.

And, in the vein of the legendary Annie Oakley, she is proof that no matter the gender, if you want something you can go get it.

The former U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot was the guest speaker — finally — at the Friends of the Weatherford Public Library Annual Spring Luncheon at the Doss Heritage and Cultural Center on May 6. She was originally scheduled to speak in 2020, but the event was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This luncheon was three years in the making,” said FOL President Kathy Ott with a chuckle.

McCormick, who has written 20 best-selling books, including her most recent, “The Pilot Method,” was named by Choicepoint Health as one of the top 30 motivational speakers in the world. She is also listed No. 4 on the list of Leadership Experts to Follow Online.

In addition, she is a Congressional Veteran Commendation recipient.

Her presentation at the event was entitled “You in the Pilot Seat.”

“I had a degree in math, a minor in art and an associates degree in engineering. I couldn’t get a job,” McCormick told the crowd as she explained how her career as a helicopter pilot began.

In the early 90s she was living with her husband, who was stationed in Fort Polk, Louisiana, she recalled, when the idea came to her to also join the army.

“One night I looked at my ‘starter husband,’” she said, pausing, then adding, “Don’t laugh too hard, you might still be on yours.

“I looked at him and said, if he can be in the Army, so can I. I wanted the coolest job. What’s the coolest job? Pilot. I didn’t know it was that hard.”

Then, one day while walking she came across an area where helicopters were fenced in, and she realized what she wanted to do — fly them.

“I clutched the gray hot fence and looked and said, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m supposed to do. It just felt right.”

Then, when speaking with a recruiter, he informed her they had openings for a cook. She responded that she wanted to fly a blackhawk helicopter.

“He said, ‘You can’t do that,’” she recalled. “You can believe your potential or you can believe what someone else has to say. I didn’t have to know how I was going to become a helicopter pilot to believe I was going to become one.

“What would have happened if I believed him instead of me?”

She said even the doctor at her physical told her she was wasting his time, as did the examiner for the flight aptitude skills test. She didn’t listen to any of them, just as she advised the audience to not listen to anyone negative in their paths.

“We get to choose what we believe — you get to choose,” she said. “Every morning when you wake up breathing you have an opportunity until that doesn’t happen any more. You are in the pilot seat of your life.”

McCormick took the audience through a simulated helicopter training, albeit without leaving their chairs.

“Even though you’re in the air there are speed limits, did you know that?” she asked, adding with a laugh, “There are no signs, though.”

As further evidence to never give up on a dream, she told the audience of how through seven weeks of training she was struggling and on the verge of failing. Still, she showed up day after day, despite such denigrating remarks from her instructor as “a monkey could fly better.”

“I just really want to see that monkey,” McCormick said, which drew a loud laugh.

Then, a substitute instructor arrived for her final week of training with a simple question.

“He asked, ‘Do you want this?’” she said. “I said ‘oh yea!’ He said, ‘Great, let’s teach you.’”

“For the first time I had someone teaching instead of yelling,” she continued.

McCormick also altered an old expression when she told the crowd, “Practice makes permanent. How we practice determines how we perform. Everything we do today builds our tomorrow.”

A few years later she found herself stationed in Fort Drummond, New York.

“It snows there in July. I knew I was in trouble when they issued us a snowblower,” she said. “There was five feet of snow on Mother’s Day. The coldest it got while I was there was minus-63, and that was actual temperature, not wind chill.”

Then came the Great North American Ice Storm of 1998.

“You think Snowmageddon last year was bad? There were people without power for 90 days,” she said.

But during that time came a heroic opportunity for her. On a flight on which she was the secondary pilot, they entered a cloud and if one of the blades were to freeze it could knock them out of the sky. It appeared from a gauge that there was a malfunction and that was about to happen.

They also had a colonel on the flight with them.

The lead pilot panicked. Thanks to the quick thinking of McCormick, however, she realized it was malfunction in the gauge and not in the part that de-iced the blades. They landed safely.

A few days later, she was told by the colonel that he was listening the whole time. Instead of chastising her for overriding the lead pilot, he commended her and thanked her for saving the lives of himself and everyone else on board — adding that if she hadn’t done what she did, he was about to come up the cockpit and do it himself.

“We all have a capability, a responsibility to lead from where we are,” she said. “We can’t wait.”

She ended her presentation with a reminder for the audience to FLY - First Lead Yourself.


Other business

Prior to McCormick speaking, Ott reminded the audience of the FOL Annual Meeting at 10:30 a.m. on June 1 at the library. At that meeting, to which the public is invited, there will be the election of board officers.

Library director Chris Accardo and his staff were recognized for receiving the 2021 Achievement in Library Excellence Award. Only 10 percent of libraries in Texas receive this honor, Ott said.

“We never stopped checking out books, not for one day or one hour,” Accardo said, addressing the pandemic.

Accardo also reminded the audience to visit the new Story Path at Love Park. It features 18 kiosks that tell a story for children, with the story changing every couple weeks to a month.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here