Transatlantic Flight: Trip of a Lifetime

YSU alum Lannie March's transatlantic flight

Lannie Marsh and her father, Jim, pose in the Cirrus single-engine plane they flew across the North Atlantic.

Lannie Marsh ’07

Engineering alum Lannie Marsh comes from a long line of aviators.

Her grandmother, Marie Barrett Marsh, a 1941 Youngstown College alumna, was one of the first women ever to fly an American military plane. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for her service during World War II.

Lannie is an accomplished pilot herself. Licensed for private, commercial, multi-engine and instrument-rated flight, she recently logged 1,000 hours of airtime. Her father, Jim (’78 BSBA), and sister, Katie (’05 BSBA), are also licensed pilots.

So when Lannie was looking for a way to spend some quality time with her dad, she thought a flight across the North Atlantic in her single-engine turbo plane would fit the bill.

“I wanted to do a big trip this year,” she said. “The way I pitched it to my dad was that I’d do the flight planning and research if he’d go with me. ”

Creating the flight plan and stocking up on the necessary safety equipment, maps and provisions for the adventure took several months. A single engine plane doesn’t have the fuel capacity or the radio power to fly non-stop across the ocean, she explained, so their route included landings in frigid locales like Greenland and Iceland, and they had to wear specially-designed rubberized immersion suits to weather the extreme cold.

Customs regulations also vary from country to country, along with rules that pertain to filing flight plans, and they could never assume that the Internet would be available at every stop.  “By the time we took off we had 20 pounds of paperwork,” she said.

The father-daughter duo set off on May 25 for the trip of a lifetime, a 16-day journey that included 51 hours of airtime and visits to eight countries – from tiny fishing villages in Greenland and Iceland to the cities of London, Paris and Dublin.

There were a few harrowing moments – flying over forest fires and through turbulent thunder storms, and circling over Scotland in heavy clouds and changing weather while another pilot struggled to land.  Ironically, Marsh said, one of the scariest experiences for her was not in the air but on land, driving a manual-transmission car on the narrow, winding and hilly roads of Ireland.

Overall, the trip went smoothly. “It was an amazing experience and I absolutely would do it again – but not in my plane,” she said, “I’d rather take a faster plane and spend more time in Europe.”

Marsh lives in Arlington, Va., and recently accepted a position as a systems engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C. There, she is working to develop a new infrastructure of lighting systems and pilot navigation aids for airports nationwide.

A native of Hubbard, Ohio, she majored in engineering at YSU because of her aptitude in math and science but didn’t find her niche until she took flying lessons her sophomore year. “I fell in love with aviation,” she said.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at YSU in 2007, and a master’s degree in technology aeronautics from Kent State, then worked as a senior consultant for a defense contractor before starting with the FAA.

Owning a plane has allowed Marsh to stay in touch with her close-knit family through frequent flights home. She also enjoys marathons, and she’s training for her first triathlon in December, an event that includes running, swimming and bicycling.

“The triathlon is in Key West, Fla., so I can fly down,” she said. “My biggest challenge now is, how do I fit a bike inside my plane?”

(Previously published in YSU Magazine, Fall 2012.)