Interview With Laurel Lippert

Apr 09, 2016

The Truckee Tahoe Airport District serves a diverse population of over 30,000 local residents in Truckee and the Tahoe Basin. A cast of fascinating and eclectic characters frequent our community airport, be it aviation aficionados checking out the day’s aircraft activity, transient pilots and their passengers, local hangar tenants and aircraft owners, as well as student pilots and their instructors. And, not surprisingly, lots of non-pilots stop by to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, good company and a tasty meal at the airport’s Red Truck Café in the main terminal building.

One standout airport personality who can always be found with a smile on her face and enlightening conversation is local pilot, aircraft owner and hangar tenant Laurel Lippert.

Born in North Dakota and raised in Michigan and Ohio, Laurel attended Eastern Michigan University and earned a degree in Speech and Drama. After college, she made a bold move with her pioneering spirit and headed east to Boston for a year, then west to San Francisco where she worked in advertising and radio. In 1976, Laurel came to Tahoe on a ski vacation with friends and not only fell in love with the Sierra Nevada, but with her now husband Tom Lippert, a photographer and Squaw Valley ski instructor.

Laurel and Tom’s first joint project was in 1980 when they self-published The Woodstove Cookerybook and sold over 15,000 copies in the following decade. From that initial partnership and whim of an idea, they worked together as writer and photographer on many published articles for SKI magazine, the first about Yosemite’s Badger Pass, and other national magazines about the Truckee-Tahoe region and general aviation. They have contributed to Mountain Pilot, Pilot Getaways and Plane & Pilot magazines and collaborated on a book that simplifies the path to becoming a pilot, called You Can Fly!, published by ASA, aviation’s largest publisher.

Laurel began flying at age 40, taking lessons from then-local Truckee Tahoe Airport flight instructor and bush pilot Al Richardson. Two years later, with 108 hours in her logbook, Laurel earned her private pilot certificate. From that point on, she was hooked on aviation and went on to get her instrument and multi-engine ratings, as well as her commercial and certificated flight instructor (CFI) certificates, “with the speed of a Piper Cub.” As a CFI, Laurel signed off Tom for his private pilot license, which he earned at age 60.

Laurel and Tom have owned several aircraft, including a 1946 Aeronca Champ, a 1946 Cessna 140, a 1948 Cessna 170, and now a 1981 Cessna 182. One of their most memorable trips was in the 100hp-Cessna 140 when they flew cross-country from Truckee to Vermont. Other trips have included a flight to Mt. Rushmore, where they worked on a story for Pilot Getaways and were featured on the magazine’s cover, flying in a Cessna 172 around New Zealand’s spectacular South Island, also for Pilot Getaways, and many flights to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the largest fly-in in the world. For eight years, Laurel was a guest speaker whose topic was “Learning to fly after 40,” a presentation she considered an aviation pep talk to encourage future pilots, some in her audience who were over 70 years old.

Laurel says that the second best thing that happened in her life (Tom being #1) is her discovery of flying and the adventure and fulfillment it brought to her life. One of her greatest joys is talking with other aviators and hearing their own stories. If you happen to be lucky enough to see Laurel at the airport, be sure and say “Hi,” if she hasn’t already!