Hooked On Flying

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Aviation: Los Alamos instructor, 80, puts students through their paces

At first, all Allene Lindstrom wanted to be was the copilot to her husband Ivar.


“I wanted to learn to take over and land an airplane safely just in case something happened to him,” Lindstrom said.

The year was 1970 and Lindstrom was in her late 30s. From there, Lindstrom was hooked. She went on to earn private and commercial licenses in single- and multi-engine “Airplane, Single Engine, Land,” both instrument and pilot, as well as glider. She also was active in the Los Alamos Civil Air Patrol and was also the chief check pilot for the entire New Mexico Civil Air Patrol Wing at one point.

Forty-three years later, she’s still active, having kept her instructor’s certificate for landing a single engine airplane.

“Flying can be addictive,” she said. “It’s something that’s very satisfying. It’s very quiet up there and you are in control of the entire situation, and I found that to be very pleasant.”

As for being an instructor, Lindstrom likes that part of the job too. “Being an instructor means you never stop learning,” she said, adding anyone can learn something new by watching how someone else fly an aircraft.

Lindstrom is a Los Alamos resident, having moved here with her husband in 1958. She said New Mexico was an ideal state to become a pilot.

“It has better weather,” she said. “You have to learn to deal with thunderstorms and the occasional high winds.”

When asked about if she’s had any harrowing incidents, Lindstrom took the professional instructor route.

“That’s something that I don’t wish to talk about,” she said. “We don’t need to make people afraid of flying or getting in an airplane. I get very annoyed at the press when they ask about things like that.”

If you are interested in learning to fly, Lindstrom recommended starting out early.

“Young people are very good,” she said. “They learn fast and retain well. The get a little adventurous sometimes, but I’ve seen older people act the same way too,” she said.

She also recommends a really well-paying job to support your hobby. “If you don’t have the adequate funds to keep yourself current, then you become a danger to yourself and others,” Lindstrom said.

Recently, to celebrate her 80th birthday, she gave a flight review to fellow Civil Air Patrol pilot Dan Gabel. The mission: emergency landings. Using the Ohkay Owingeh Airport, Lindstrom took Gabel through his paces, observing how he landed the plane without power and other emergency maneuvers.

Called a “biannual flight review,” the review is designed to teach pilots new techniques as well as what they can do better.

“You need successfully complete one every two years, and basically it’s an hour in the air and an hour on the ground in discussion,” Gabel said.

Gabel said he liked having Lindstrom as an instructor this time around, adding that it helps she knows her stuff when you’re at 12,000 feet practicing engine failure.

“One of the most important things about a working with flight instructor is that you’re comfortable with them, Gabel said. “She has a manner that makes you comfortable, yet she’s also very thorough.”

Though she’s officially retired from flight instruction, since she’s held on to her Single Engine Plane, Land certificate, she’s officially the oldest, female, Federal Aviation Administration approved flight instructor in the state of New Mexico.

She is also keeping active in other ways too. She said her next project will be helping the Los Alamos Visiting Nurses Association get the necessary funds to build a hospice here.