Capt. Lynn Rippelmeyer's Extraordinary Life and Career
Capt. Lynn Rippelmeyer in a Boeing 787, 2013 - click for larger version
Lynn was born and raised on a farm in Illinois. She attended the University of Illinois, studying English education and psychology. During her college years, she had student teaching experience in inner-city Chicago.
After graduation, Lynn was employed as a flight attendant (F/A) at TWA during the years 1972-1978. During furloughs and leaves of absence from TWA, she was engaged in an impressive variety of activities. She worked as a bartender, substitute teacher, and crewed on a sailboat in Antigua, BWI
In 1973, Lynn started flying lessons in a Piper J-3 Cub on floats. She continued with flying lessons, earning single and multi-engine land ratings, an instrument rating, Certified Flight Instructor rating, and Air Transport Pilot rating. She flew charters and gave flight instruction in Miami while on "butterfly leaves" from TWA each winter, 1973-77. In 1975, she lived in Madrid, Spain for five months, working as an English tutor and improving her Spanish. During that time, Lynn learned that the first two female airline pilots in the U.S. had been hired; Bonnie Tiburzi at American and Emily Warner at Frontier. She wrote to them and they offered encouragement. In 1976, Lynn took the Career Pilot program for the F/E (flight engineer) rating at Miami Dade (Community) College.
In 1977, Lynn was hired by Air Illinois as a First Officer (F/O) flying the de Haviland DHC-6 Twin Otter. She was part of first all-female crew of a U.S. scheduled airline In two years, she had 1,000 hours of gas-turbine time. In 1978, she was still a TWA employee and TWA transferred her from F/A to pilot, the first F/A to do that in the airline industry. She was one of the first 25 female airline pilots in the U.S. and the 2nd female pilot hired by TWA. She was assigned as Boeing 727 F/E (flight engineer). She was furloughed a year later. She was hired by Seaboard in 1980 and became the first female pilot to fly the Boeing 747. Her uniform is in the Smithsonian Museum. Lynn was furloughed after the merger with Flying Tigers.In 1981, Lynn was hired as a pilot at People Express Airlines (PEX). In her six years at PEX, she was
- One of first female airline captains in the U.S. - 1981
- Co-captain of the first all-female crew on the Boeing 737 - 1982.
- First female B-747 captain on a trans-Atlantic flight - 1984.
- Woman of the Year in England for being first female B-747 captain to land there.
Congratulated by Princess Anne
- Featured in a BBC special, Reaching for the Skies.
- Featured on Working Woman TV show
- Listed in Who's Who in American Women.
- Also flew as captain on the Boeing, 727 1986 - 87.
While at People Express, Lynn also worked a recruiting manager, trained with Harvard professors on the captain's role in leadership, teamwork, and communication for the FAA-mandated CRM (Crew resource management or cockpit resource management). In 1987, PEX merged with Continental Airlines (CAL) where Lynn continued to fly the B-737. In 2011, Continental and United Airlines started to merge their operations. Lynn is retiring from United in November, 2013, after a 36-year career as an airline pilot. During the Continental - United years, her outside activities remained as busy and varied as ever and included.
- Took 3 months off to sail through French Polynesia (Tahiti - Samoa).
- Got married, had children, took leaves of absence to spend time with family 1988 - 1997.
- Created Wings Inc. - corporate training, coaching, public speaking.
- Got divorced, returned to flying - 1998.
- Flew B-737 on 1-day turns - mostly to TGU ( Tegucigalpa, Honduras) to better raise sons as single mom.
- Met missionaries in Honduras and helped by delivering supplies. (See below)
- Helped to start clinic on island of Roatan, Honduras.
- Transferred to Boeing 787, the most-advanced airliner flying, after her children left for college in 2012.
While flying into TGU, Lynn met some missionaries with a clinic near the airport. She started taking used clothing and shoes to them to distribute to the impoverished villages of Honduras that they served. She helped Valerie, the clinic doctor and manager with her management skills and the clinic's staff in leadership, teamwork, communication through presentations and coaching. She also brought teams annually from her church to help with the village work. After a few years, they ventured to Roatan, a small island off the northern coast of Honduras, had a tour, and found an empty clinic building, sitting unused due to the cost of electricity. Lynn began delivering large boxes of used shoes the local church would sell to pay for the utilities so that medical / dental teams could use the building. After years of this, they are finally getting close to opening on a daily basis. To be more available to help at the clinic, Lynn bought a condo on Roatan and plans to spend about one-half of her time there.
Lynn is also attempting to restart her business in public speaking, corporate training and coaching. She is also in the process of writing a book to help this effort along. Part of all sales will go to the clinic.
Ed. When Lynn sent me her story, she wrote, "Life is Good. Flying has given me so much - I'm trying to give back." In my opinion, her good life owes a great deal to her own extraordinary diligence, efforts and character. I think Lynn deserves her good fortune and our admiration. She certainly has mine. - Ken Kahn, Webmaster