In 1976, Julie Clark became a commercial airline pilot and, in 1978, she added another type of piloting to her resume, the aerobatic type. She has been flying planes for nearly 40 years now and she told us that she has undergone extensive emergency training every year since she began her career.
Julie Clark was a woman in a man's sport when she began her journey in the mid 1970s.
"I had some problems trying to get hired," said Clark. "They made me cut my hair and I had long hair but that was just a small part of it."
She made the cut and she also made it to the final job interview.
Clark said, "At the final interview for Golden West Airlines, which was the first airline I flew for before I got in with the majors, [the interviewer] had a problem with the fact that there was not a men's door on the men's room. I went up to his desk after 9 months of trying to get this job and I said, 'If I buy you a men's door, I will even install the darn thing if you'll just hire me,' and he said, 'I like your spunk! When can you start?'".
Her spunk was unusual but it got her in the door. She became one of the first female pilots to work for a major airline and she feels that through her training she has learned all of the tricks of the trade.
"We go through scenarios in these simulators that are so real to life you forgot you are even in a simulator," said Clark. "They throw a lot of crazy things at you whether it be fire or decompression or failures of components of the airplane."
These scenarios have helped Clark in the past.
"I had one incident when we took off out of Las Vegas," said Clark. "We were on our way to Baton Rouge and I had a whole boat load of people in an MD-80. We shed a tire just as we rotated. The tire went through the engine and we were committed to go so we had to circle around and prepare the cabin for a crash landing."
Clark landed the plane safely and she credits the extensive training.
"As an airline pilot, we are so highly trained but you can never cover every little aspect of what might happen," said Clark. "Because of the great training, you can usually prepare for whatever might come your way."
Clark is experienced and she is prepared. Although she never wishes for a disastrous situation, she is always ready for one.
"You don't want anything abnormal to happen but you are ready when it does," said Clark.
Clark told us that in the event of an emergency, the passengers are the main priority. She emphasizes communication. If there is communication between the cock pit, the flight deck, and the cabin, it is easier to act in the appropriate manner.