Archive-title: Anderson's Training
Sherry found herself in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The routine was
similicity itself: She would fly as co-pilot for a DC-3 to
Madison, Janesville, Rockford, IL and into Midway, . At each
point, part of the cargo would be loaded on so that when they
arrived in Chicago they normally had a full load. The cargo (which
was in containers) would be transferred to a cargo jet and taken
to the national sorting center. Christa Welles (the DC-3's
Captain) and Sherry would try to catch a few winks in the female
bunkroom until the outbound cargo was delivered. Then they would
fly the DC-3 back to La Crosse.
Sherry, who had grown up reading the stories of Ernest Gann,
was in high heaven. Ok, so they were using VORs and loran, not
low-freqency ranges, but it didn't take much imagination on her
part to believe they were flying AM-21. She could see why the old
airline pilots loved the DC-3; easy to fly, easy to land, and about
as forgiving a taildragger as was ever made.
Christa didn't see it that way, but she was a short-timer.
In three weeks she would be going to United's new pilot school.
In baseball terms, she had made it to "the show." United had sent
her some advance course material and she was spending every bit of
free time studying it.
Sherry's other studies weren't neglected. She had a
subscription to two weekly newsmagazines in Portugese and Spanish.
The school called her twice a week for progress reports and to
gently quiz her on current events. The calls were made in one or
the other languages. A case officer dropped by every three weeks;
again the discussions weren't in English.
When Christa left, Sherry was promoted to the left seat of the
DC-3. Another woman took over the co-pilot slot. Sherry flew as
a DC-3 captain for six months. It seemed to her as if things were
going very slowly, but there was a reason to it. The program that
was training her incurred no major costs while Sherry was flying
the cargo planes. While her military pay was continuing, the money
for that came from the Navy. As far as they were concerned, Sherry
was an asset that was in safe-keeping. Sherry was living on her
flying pay. Her military pay kept accumulating in a combination
money market and mutual fund account.
Doris called her one morning and told her to stop taking the
hormones, that there would be more surgery in three weeks. Sherry
asked what surgery, but Doris wouldn't tell her. Sherry sighed at
all the "need to know" bullshit, but that's the way they did
Right on time, Doris showed up three weeks later at the La
Crosse airport as Sherry came back from a cargo run. There was a
new pilot for the -3, Doris led Sherry to a Gulfstream III that had
its cabin windows covered over.
"Where are we going," Sherry asked.
Doris led the way onto the jet and closed the door. She
knocked on the cockpit door (also shut) and then sat down. Janet
was there, too. "We are going for the final surgery," Doris said.
She nodded to Janet.
Janet pulled out a briefcase as the jet taxiied to the active
runway. "We have a lot of material to go over, first. Read these,
and sign at the bottom where the `x' is if you agree. We'll
Sherry started to read. Most of it was legalese about the
risks of sexual reassignment surgery. There was a lengthy consent
form and a very stark explaination that the surgery was not
reversible with any current or foreseen technique. She barely
noticed the takeoff roll and climbout as she waded through the
forms. There were a few she had to reread to make sure she
understood them. But there was no question in her mind that this
was what she wanted. Each time she signed a document, Doris and
Janet would countersign it and Doris would notarize it.
Finally, she finished the last form. She handed it to Janet,
who signed it. Doris used the embossing stamp and signed it. "Now
what," Sherry asked.
"Any last minute qualms," inquired Janet.
"About being operated on? Yes. About why? No."
"All right," Janet sighed. "Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
You'll find some books in the bin next to your right knee." Janet
was relieved. She had to ask Sherry that question out of
professional duty, but nobody wanted her to back out. A likely
mission was on the planning table and there was no one better
qyalified than Sherry for it.
Sherry found a Portugese version of Louis L'amour's "The
Sacketts." It was easy reading.
The jet landed and taxiied into a hangar. Sherry wasn't
allowed to leave the airplane until the hangar doors were shut.
The three women then got into a limosine with blackened windows
that was in the hangar. Even the license plate was covered up.
The limo went to a hospital; they got out in an empty parking
garage. Two orderlies waited with a gurney. They had Sherry lie
on it, then they strapped her in. One orderly covered her to the
neck with a blanket, the other wrapped a bandage around her eyes.
They wheeled her up to a private room. As she expected, the
windows were opaque. Doris showed her that the TV set worked,
although it only had generic cable stations on it, nothing that
would identify the city or state they were in. Sherry unpacked and
What Sherry wanted to do now was sleep, but that was not to
be. Two different doctors came by to do a physical examination,
followed by another doctor who identified himself as the
anesthesiologist. All three wore surgical greens and masks,
presumably to minimize any chances of Sherry identifying them.
The dinner was light, it was followed by one nurse who gave
Sherry an enema (which was no fun as Sherry wasn't into water
sports), and another who shaved her pubic area. Finally a third
nurse came by, woke her up, and gave her a sleeping pill.
An orderly woke her up early the next morning and gave her a
shot to make her drowsy. "Great, just what I needed," Sherry
thought and she went to sleep again. She thought she remembered
somebody talking to her in the OR, but she wasn't sure.
The next thing she knew is that she woke up with a burning
sensation in her groin. Sherry groped for the call button, a nurse
came in and gave her a shot. She went back to sleep.
Sherry was confined to bed for five days, although she felt
strong enough to get up after three. One of the doctors told her
it was "because you're in great shape, young lady" and ordered her
to stay in bed anyway. Sherry whiled away the time watching CNN
and HBO. Doris and Janet visited every day, they brought her
copies of the NY Times. That meant nothing, as Sherry knew the
paper was distributed nationally.
When they let her out of bed, Sherry started to get some
exercise walking up and down the hall. She was surprised to see
that most of the rooms were empty. The others had closed doors,
they only let her go out when the other patients were out of sight.
She was in the hospital for ten days. The return trip was
made the same way, except this time the airplane was a Lear 31 and
the flight ended at the training base. There Sherry recuperated
for a few weeks and did whatever she felt like. To her joy, one
of the airplanes on the flight line was a Stearman; she arranged
for a checkout and flew the big biplane as much as she could.
There was a T-28 on the line; Sherry checked out in it but didn't
fly it very much. To her, it wasn't as much fun as the biplane.
They ran her through a series of refresher courses-- language,
defense, and flying. The emphasis in the flying was in terrain
folowing and rough-field operations. Sherry was also given
extensive training in loran, omega, and GPS navigation systems.
Loran was familiar, but they ran her through it anyway. Omega sets
in aircraft were rare to start with and hardly anyone still used
them, but on the off-chance that one would be there, she had to
learn it. GPS (Global Positioning Satellites) was the lastest
system, supposedly accurate to less than 50 meters in three
After Sherry was checked by a team of doctors and judged to
have recovered, she went back to La Crosse and resumed flying the
DC-3 on the cargo runs. Doris told her that "completely recovered"
didn't mean that all the scars had healed. They wanted time for
the scars from the surgery to fade before making a final evaluation
of Sherry's fitness for a mission.
Her co-pilot was an average-sized woman named Julia Waldowski.
Julia and Sherry became pretty good friends, hard to avoid when one
spends five days a week flying together. After verifying that
Julia knew what she was about, Sherry let her fly the alternate
legs of the runs. There wasn't much to it. If the weather was
good enough, they'd fly VFR to avoid the delays caused by the ATC
Julia was a bit of an exercise nut. While most of the other
pilots were trying to catch a little sleep between the inbound and
outbound legs, she would go for a run around the cargo area. One
night she forgot to pack any deoderant, so she asked Sherry if
there was any in her bag (almost all the pilots had a small bag
with a change of clothing and toiletries in case they were
weathered in). Sherry was asleep and mumbled something like "sure"
and went back to sleep.
The return flight was in good weather; they cancelled IFR and
flew out of Midway VFR. Sherry flew the leg and noticed that Julia
was being really quiet.
"Did you hurt yourself running tonight," she asked.
"No, it was a good five miles."
"Then what's wrong?" Sherry glanced over, although it wasn't
necessary to look with the headests and the intercom.
Julia was silent for a minute, then said: "When I borrowed
your deodorant, I found a dialator in your bag."
That rang a few bells in Sherry's mind. Most people would
have called it a `dildo,' but she called it a `dialator.' "Okay.
"`So?' We've been flying together for a few months now. I
mean," Julia stopped, at a loss for words. She reached for her
purse and took her wallet out. She drew a photo from one of the
plastic pockets and handed it to Sherry. She then put her hand on
the control wheel. "I have the airplane."
"Your airplane," Sherry replied. She pulled a small
flashlight out and shielded the light, then she looked at the
photo. The picture showed Julia standing next to a taller woman,
one who was almost half a foot taller. She was pretty good
looking, though, and appeared to be about the same age as Julia.
There was some slight resemblance between the two women, especially
in the way a slight smile was on their lips. Sherry put away the
flashlight, handed the photo back, and said: "I have the
"Who is she?"
Julia was putting the photo back into her wallet. "That's
Michelle, my big sister."
In more ways than one, Sherry thought. "How much older is
"Depends on how you look at it. She's either three years
older than I am or she's 23 years younger."
Sherry did some quick figuring; she knew Julia was 25, so
Michelle was 28..uh, oh. "Spell it out."
"She was born as Michael. She had a sexual reassignment
operation two years ago. Most people wouldn't know it to look at
her. But when she travels, she had a dialator in her suitcase; she
uses it to make sure her vagina stays open. Her dialator looks
just like yours."
Sherry made a note of that; she'd better replace the damn
thing with a regular dildo. It'd be better to have someone assume
she was just weird. "How do you feel about having a sister who's
Julia made a noncommittal gesture in the dim red light of the
Doug's cockpit. She looked out to the right, where the headlights
of the cars on I-90 were visible. "Michael never fit in as a boy.
I think I knew he wanted to be a girl a long time ago. She's a big
woman, now, but she's very happy. Michelle has a sort of inner
peace that most people don't. I think it comes from knowing that
she has done what she needed to do.
"I don't know, it's strange sometimes. But when I'm around
her, I forget sometimes that she used to be a he. My parents
aren't very happy, but they've realized that it was the best
Sherry tuned the number 1 navcom to the Rockford tower
frequency, 118.3 mHz. The tower was closed, so she listened to see
if anyone else was in the area. Nobody was there, so she tried
calling Hartzog on their frequency to find which way the windsock
was pointing. The lineman looked out the door and let her know.
She pulled back on the throttles lsightly and started a shallow
descent, then switched back to the tower frequency.
Julia didn't let it drop. "When did you have your surgery?"
"You're making a pretty big assumption, aren't you?"
"No, I don't think so. Even for a tall woman, you have large
hands and feet. Whoever worked on you did an excellent job;
there's no scarring from the tracheal shave. I can see a few
pockmarks that probably came from electrolysis, but everyone else
is going to assume they're acne scars."
Sherry sighed. "A few months ago. I came back from recovery
when we started flying together."
"Does the line know?" Julia was referring to the cargo
"No. How would they? They don't do physicals, my paperwork
all says `female.'"
"How did you get the time off?"
"I put in for a leave of absence without pay."
"Does the FAA know? How did you get a medical?"
Sherry smiled slightly. She announced her position over the
radio, then answered Julia. "There are ways. The FAA knows all
about me. It's not exactly an unknown thing for them to see.
Karen Ulane did us a big favor."
"I guess so. That was too bad, though," Julia commented,
referring to the crash that killed Ulane.
"Yeah. Gear down."
Julia pushed the lever down. "Coming down...down and locked."
Sherry pulled the throttles back. "Flaps ten."
"Flaps ten. Mixture to full rich."
"Full rich." She pushed the prop controls forward, ensuring
they'd be set if she had to go-around. Nobody else was in the
pattern, Sherry flew a tight approach with minimal power. When she
knew she had the field made, she called for full flaps. She landed
the DC-3 a little tail low, then let the tail settle. One the tail
was down, Sherry moved the control column all the way back to hold
it. She unlocked the tailwheel once they had slowed to taxi speed.
Julia commented. "Michelle'll be so thrilled to know."
"Julia, don't tell her. Please."
Julia looked over. "You're on of the ones who want to
disappear afterwards, then."
"Yes. Please don't tell anyone."
They didn't talk much for the rest of the flight.
Julia did ask Sherry a couple days later if she wanted to get
together for dinner and some drinks on Saturday night. Sherry
didn't have any plans, so she agreed. "You have any ideas," she
Julia shrugged. "There's a decent Chinese place not too far
away from the field. We can go there."
"Sounds good. What should we wear?"
"I'm tired of wearing pants all the time," Julia declared.
"I'm going to dress up a little."
"Ok by me. Where should we meet?"
"We both live near the field, so let's meet in the line
parking lot at seven."
"Sure. See you then."
They were both there at seven. That may have been a little
surprising to a casual observer, but both women were pilots and
were used to showing up on time. Julia was wearing a dark floral
print dress that was flowing and came to just below the knee. The
dress apparently was made of rayon, tan hose, and black pumps with
3" heels. Sherry had a black knee-length dress with a polo shirt
type of collar. She also had on black pumps but with a little
lower heel. They decided to take Sherry's Honda; that way Julia
didn't have to clean off the passenger seat of her Tercel.
There was a wait for the restuarant, but not much of one.
They shared food, like most peole do when they're eating Chinese,
and giggled over the fortune cookies. Sherry's said "You are about
to take a long journey."
Julia knew a nice lounge not very far away. Over a couple
drinks, the two women talked; mainly about flying. Like most
pilots, they used their hands a lot. The bartender listened in as
much as he could, he seemed fascinated by two women discussing
aviation in a way that only pilots could. They did switch to diet
soda after the second drink; neither one wanted to risk a drunken-
driving beef. (The FAA's been going after pilots who drink and
The crowd had lessed out, it was getting late, so they left
the bar. Two men followed them out, ambling behind them as their
heels clicked faster across the parking lot. Sherry fished her
keys out and had them in her hand when the two men caught up to
One of them grabbed Sherry by the right wrist from behind.
"What's your hurry, little lady," he asked in a tone that chilled
Sherry to the core.
The other one had grabbed Julia. "We only want to party a
little. Come with us, you won't get hurt and we'll show you a real
good time." Both men laughed.
Sherry exploded into motion. She pivoted and drove her left
fist into the man's midsection with all the power she could muster.
The breath whooshed out of his lungs, he let go of her wrist and
started to double over. Sherry pulled back, then swung the edge
of her right fist into his nose, smashing it to a bloody ruin. She
wasn't finished, but he was when she kicked his left kneecap out
of alighnment. He fell to the pavement a bleeding groaning ruin.
The goon holding Julia was frozen in shock as he gaped at his
devastated friend. He came alert when he heard a metallic
clicking; he looked up and saw Sherry pointing a small black
automatic pistol at his head. From her stance and her expression,
he knew he was very close to dying.
"Let her go," Sherry commanded. The man did so instantly.
"Put your hands on top of your head. You move without me telling
you to and you're a dead man. Julia, get the phone from my car."
Julia did. "Dial this number-" Sherry told her what number "-
come around on my left side and hand it to me."
Julia did as she was told; she was almost as stunned as the
man who Sherry had the gun on. Sherry took the phone and when it
was answered, explained the situation. She was told to stay where
she was. She handed the phone back to Julia, who took it and stood
A police car with no lights drove up three minutes later. It
stopped so that the headlights illuminated the scene. The cop got
out and came over. His pistol was drawn, but wasn't aimed at
anyone. "You Anderson," he asked.
"Ok." He holstered the gun, grabbed the guy standing up and
tossed him against the Honda. "Assume the position, asshole." The
man did. The cop frisked and cuffed him, then he marched him over
to the cruiser and threw him in the back seat. Sherry put her
pistol away, the cop came back and frisked and cuffed the guy on
the ground with a heavy-duty cable tie. Sherry helped him drag the
man to the cruiser and stuffed him in next to his buddy. The cop
siad: "We'll be in touch" to Sherry and drove away with the two
Julia was still a little dazed. Sherry walked her over to the
passenger's side of the car and helped her get in. Sherry walked
back around and got in. She looked over at Julia. "Are you all
"I've never seen anything like that. It was so quick. All
of a sudden he was on the ground and you had a gun."
Sherry nodded, but didn't say anything.
"Where did you learn do do that?"
"I was taught. Where and why, I can't tell you."
"Were you in the service before-"
"Yes." Sherry let Julia draw her own conclusions, even though
she knew they'd be the wrong ones.
"And the gun. I grew up in Chicago. The only guns I've ever
seen belonged to the cops. Is it yours?"
"Do you have a permit for it?"
"Do you carry it wtih you all the time?"
"I can't answer that. I will say I carry it when I need to."
Julia looked over at her. "Why did you have it tonight?"
"I needed to, evidently."
Julia sighed. "I think I want to go home." Sherry drove her
back to the airport and parked next to Julia's car. Julia got out
without saying a word; Sherry stayed there until Julia had started
to drive away.
Sherry sighed. She didn't know what would happen now, but
there wasn't much she could do about it.