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Frequently Asked Questions to Rhonda

How long did you and Nikki know each other before you decided to fly the 1998 flight?

2 months. She bought a tailwheel airplane and needed someone to give her an endorsement to fly it. I was that flight instructor.

What made you want to do the flight?

At first, it was different for us.  Nikki was into the history of the 1938 women and the Night Witches.  She wanted to shine a light on that period and their accomplishments.  For me, I was the adventure person. I wanted the challenge of flying around the world (Northern Hemisphere) and through Siberia. But as I learned more about this incredible history, my “why” changed and I wanted what Nikki wanted.

Where did you get the airplane that you used?

Nikki bought it before I knew her. She found it in a barn with mud and cow dung under the wings. There were rubber snakes hanging off the wings to scare the mice away and it had flat tires. She fell in love at first sight.

How long did it take you to complete the 1998 flight?

 49 days from takeoff from Lebanon, TN until landing back at Lebanon, TN.

How long did it take to plan the flight? 

From the first time we talked about it, until we took off was 2 years.

What were some of the biggest obstacles in the planning?

Getting permission from the Russian Government and planning for our type of fuel to be at our stops in Siberia.

What were some of the biggest obstacles during the flight?

We were met each morning with our Russian counterparts saying “We have small problem” and by the time we got to the airport, they had solved the problem.  But I would say the language barrier was the largest. Especially with a Russian and American pilot in each airplane and the translation of ATC transmissions was pertinent. We flew domestic routes in Russia and their air traffic controllers did not speak english.

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