Pioneer Hall of Fame
The Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of
Fame was established in 1992 to honor women who have made
significant contributions as record setters, pioneers,
or innovators. Special consideration is given to individuals
or groups who have helped other women be successful in
aviation or opened doors of opportunity for other women.
Each year, the organization solicits nominations from
throughout the aviation industry for the WAI Pioneer Hall
of Fame. We salute these distinguished members of the
Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2008 Pioneer Hall of Fame
Click here for requirements and an application form.
2003 Women in Aviation's
100 most influential women in the aviation and aerospace
Moya Olsen Lear was born to Lillian and John
Olsen of the famous Olsen and Johnson vaudeville team.
After attending Ohio State University and Pace Institute
of New York City, she worked as her father's assistant
and secretary when Olsen and Johnson's Helzzapoppin'
was the longest running hit in Broadway history. Into
that backstage hubbub came William Powell Lear, avionics
genius and entrepreneur, who wooed her and, in 1942, wedded
her. They raised four children while sharing in the staggering
success of the Lear autopilot, the Learstar, and Learjet.
As her husband's partner and confidante, she took over
his last great project, the Lear Fan, upon his death in
1978. Serving as chairman of the board of Lear Avia, Inc.,
she brought the airplane to its successful first flight.
Entertaining, informal, and witty, Mrs. Lear is a popular
speaker, and has been awarded six honorary doctorates,
as well as an impressive list of other honors.
Emily Howell Warner was the first permanent
female pilot for a scheduled U.S. passenger airline. She
took her first airplane ride when she was 17, and immediately
decided on aviation as a career. She first sought a job
at Frontier Airlines in 1968, and renewed her application
frequently. After she turned 30, she lost all hope of
being hired, especially after watching her own former
students, who happened to be male, being hired. Finally,
in January 1973, Frontier agreed to take the bold step
of hiring a woman. She initially flew as a first officer
on Convair 580's and de Havilland Twin Otters. In 1976,
she became the first female U.S. airline captain, flying
a Twin Otter. Warner then became captain of a Boeing 737
for United Parcel Service. In 1974, she became the first
woman member of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).
In 1990, she retired from UPS to become a Federal Aviation
Fay Gillis Wells abandoned college in 1929
for flying. Three days after making her first solo flight,
she was invited to take a ride in an experimental aircraft
while the pilot maneuvered through some acrobatics. While
flying upside down, the plane fell apart, but Wells managed
to survive with her parachute. This unplanned adventure
resulted in Wells being hired by the Curtis Flying Service
as saleswoman and demonstrator. It also earned her the
distinction of first woman member of the Caterpillar Club
for aviators who parachuted from disabled aircraft. Wells,
along with Amelia Earhart, was a co-founder of the Ninety-Nines.
In the early 1930's Wells was a free-lance correspondent
in the Soviet Union for the New York Herald Tribune, the
Associated Press and aviation magazines. While there,
she became the first American woman to pilot a Soviet
civil aircraft, and was the first foreigner to own a glider
in the Soviet Union.
Edna Gardner Whyte - biography coming soon
Jeana Yeager grew up in Texas but moved to
Santa Rosa, California in 1977 where she studied energy,
aerospace design and commercial engineering draftsmanship.
In March of 1981, with partner Dick Rutan, Yeager founded
Voyager Aircraft, Inc. where she devoted herself exclusively
to the building, testing, developing and flying of the
Voyager for its around the world, non-stop, non-refueled
flight. On December 14, 1986, Yeager and Rutan began their
history-making flight in the Voyager, flying the maximum
circumference of the globe in nine days, three minutes
and forty-four seconds.
Nancy Hopkins Tier started flying in November
1927 at Hoover Field in Arlington, Virginia. In 1930 she
entered the "Women's Dixie Derby," a 2,000mile air race
from Washington to Chicago, and was the only woman to
enter the 5,000-mile Ford Reliability Air Race. She won
the New England Air Race in 1971 and placed several times.
Tier joined the Civil Air Patrol in 1942, where she served
for 18 years. She was the first woman to receive the rank
of Colonel as Wing Commander of Connecticut. She also
served eight years on the National Conunander Advisory
Staff and received the Exceptional Service Award and the
Evelyn "Bobbi" Trout knew she would learn to
fly from the day she saw her first airplane. Her first
ride was in 1922 in an OX5 powered Jenny. By age 22 she
had earned enough money to take flying lessons and became
the fifth woman in the U.S. to obtain her transport license,
She also became a demonstration and test pilot for the
Golden Eagle Aircraft Company. One of many records Trout
set was the world's record for solo endurance flight for
women in 1929. The flight lasted 12 hours and 1 1 minutes.
She flew in the first Woman's Air Derby from Santa Monica
to Cleveland, and also set a refueling endurance record
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were
formed in August of 1943 as an adjunct to the Army Air
Forces' war effort. The organization was made up of two
civilian-flying groups - the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying
Squadron and the Women's Hying Training Detachment. Under
the guidance of Jacqueline Cochran, the WASP became involved
in all aspects of military flying operations, with the
exception of combat and overseas ferrying. More than 1,000
WASP pilots flew over 70 million miles and delivered 12,650
airplanes across the country during their time of operation.
The WASP program was suspended in December 1944.
Mary Feik overhauled her first auto engine
when she was 13 years old. She turned to airplae engines
at 18 and taught aviation mechanics for the U.S. Army
Air Corps. During WW II, Feik became an expert on several
fighter planes, and is credited with becoming the first
woman engineer in research and development for the Air
Technical Service Command. She flew more than 5,000 hours
as a B-29 flight engineer, engineering observer and pilot
in fighter, attack, bomber, cargo and training aircraft.
Felk is a professional restorer of antique and classic
aircraft and has worked at the National Air and Space
Museum's Paul E. Garber Restoration Facility
Olive Ann Beech, along with her husband Walter,
co-founded Beech Aircraft Company in 1932. She served
as secretary-treasurer and director until 1950, when her
husband died. She then took over as President and CEO
of the company, and transformed the Beech Aircraft into
a multimillion-dollar, international corporation. She
served as chairman of the board from 1968 until 1982.
She was chairman emeritus at the time of her death in
Evelyn Bryan Johnson received her private pilot's
license in 1945, her commercial rating in 1946, and her
flight instructor's certificate in 1947. In 1949, she
purchased half interest in Morristown (Tennessee) Flying
Service and in 1962, purchased her partner's interest
and became full owner and airport manager. In 1982 she
sold Morristown Flying Service to devote more time to
flight instructing and examinations. Johnson has been
a flight instructor for 45 years. She has given flight
examinations for various licenses and certificates for
the FAA to more than 9,000 applicants. In 1991, she passed
her 50,000th hour of logged flight time, believed to be
the most ever accumulated by a woman pilot.
Shortly after Jessie Woods eloped in 1928 with
her husband to be, Jimmie, he formed the Flying Aces Air
Circus. They did not realize they were making aviation
history as they created the longest running of America's
flamboyant air circuses. For 10 years, the show continued
week after week, with Jessie as the leading lady. She
did it all. She stunted airplanes as a pilot, scampered
about on wings, parachuted and dangled by her knees on
rope ladders that swung beneath the biplanes. She was
also a mechanic and later taught military pilots to fly,
Woods flew with the Civil Air Patrol during WW II. She
later became a commercial flight and ground instructor.
In 1941, she and Jimmie leased Roddey Field, in Rock Hill,
South Carolina, and received governmental contracts for
military flight training.
Bessie Coleman Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas in 1892. Although she was an avid reader, she worked as a laundress and briefly attended Langston University in Oklahoma. After moving to Chicago, she was inspired by the World War I pilots. She became interested in flying and became convinced she should be up there, not just reading about it. She started looking for a flying school but what she didn't realize was that she had two strikes against her: She was a woman and she was black.
She heard through her friend, sponsor and mentor, Robert S. Abbott (founder and editor of the Chicago Defender newspaper) that Europe had a more liberal attitude toward women and people of color. So she learned to speak French and earned enough money to go to Paris to get her license. She would not let go of her dream and earned her license on June 15, 1921 from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. She became the first American of any race or gender to earn an international pilot's license. Upon her return to the United States, she worked to increase the number of Black pilots. One of her first flying exhibitions was at Chicago's Checkerboard Field, before a crowd which included some of her friends. Dapper little Bessie wore a military-type uniform, complete with puttees and a Sam Brown belt, so that she looked like many other daredevil pilots of the era. For the next four years, she flew at shows whenever she could, and in between taught aviation for African-Americans. On October 12, 1922 she flew at the Tri-state Fair in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Jacksonville, Florida Negro Welfare League was sponsoring an air show on May Day 1926 and asked Bessie to perform. Unfortunately, she was killed before the show while testing her plane. No one was sure exactly what happened, as accident investigations were not so thorough in those days. It is known, however, that she fell more than a mile to her death.
Although her dream of establishing a flying school for black students never materialized, the Bessie Coleman Aero groups were organized after her death. On Labor Day, 1931, these flying clubs met in Chicago and sponsored the first all-black air show in America, which attracted 15,000 spectators. This event remains an important annual venue. In 1990 a street in Chicago was renamed Bessie Coleman Drive Chicago. In 1995 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in her honor.
Lt. Col. Eileen Collins (now Colonel Eileen
Collins - ed.) was selected by NASA as an astronaut
in 1990. In February 1995, she was the first female to
pilot a shuttle mission. Collins graduated in 1979 from
Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training and was a T-38
instructor pilot until 1982. The following two years she
was a C-141 aircraft commander and instructor pilot at
Travis AFB, Calif. She spent the following year as a student
with the Air Force Institute of Technology. Collins was
then assigned to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, where
she taught mathematics and was a T- 141 instructor pilot.
She was selected for the astronaut program while attending
the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, CA, from
which she graduated in 1990. Collins has logged more than
4,000 hours in 30 different types of aircraft.
Wally Funk graduated first in her flight training
class as Stephens College, and went on to excel in the
flying curriculum at Oklahoma State University. At age
20, she was the first woman ever hired to flight instruct
at Fort Still, Oklahoma. In the 1960's Funk was one of
25 women chosen to undergo preliminary astronaut testing.
In 1971, she became the first female FAA inspector and,
in 1973, became the first female in the FAA's System Airworthiness
Analysis Program. Funk moved on to the NTSB in 1974, where
she became one of the Board's first female air safety
investigators. She has more than 13,600 hours of flying
and has dedicated herself to educating pilots on safety
and common sense in flying.
Jean Ross Howard learned to fly in 1941 through
the government's Civilian Pilot Training Program. In 1954
she became the 13th woman in the world to receive a helicopter
rating. She has participated in three international helicopter
championships and both U.S. and international fixed-wing
air races. An AIA public affairs specialist for 41 years,
she is noted for her efforts in establishing heliports
in emergency medical services. Founder of the Whirly-Girls,
Inc., she has written extensively on aviation and authored
the book All About Helicopters.
Nadine Jeppesen was hired by United Airlines
as a "stewardess" to tend to passengers aboard their flights.
In 1936, she married Capt. Jeppesen and together they
established a flight chart business, producing the Jeppesen
Airway Manual. Working out of the basement of their home
in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jeppesen hired cartographers,
helped design and write the copy for promotional procedures,
and handled a myriad of other details associated with
running the company. She continued to work as secretary/treasurer
after they moved to Denver in 1941, and held that position
until the company was sold in 1961.
Lorna DeBlicquy wrote a guest editorial in 1974
in "Canadian Flight" protesting the discrimination against
women pilots by Crown Corporation Air Transit. The article
attracted national comment in the media and contributed
to the improved climate which now ensures women a place
in the cockpits of Canada's major airlines. When Canada
endorsed ICAO's position that pregnancy is a disease,
and thus automatically downgraded a pilot's medical category,
DeB]icquy served on a Canadian committee on pregnancy
related to pilots' medical standards. As a result, some
leniency on the loss of a category I medical classification
during pregnancy has been granted to working women pilots.
She has a total of 10,000 flying hours, more than half
of them earned through flight instructing. She earned
licenses for private glider, commercial helicopter, and
single, multi, land, sea, DC-3 and Canadian Airline Transport
Canada as the first female Civil Aviation Flight Test
Audrey Poberezny has played an active role
in the formation, administration and operation of the
Experimental Aircraft Association. Poberezny has been
instrumental in helping the organization grow from a local
club for amateur aircraft builders into an international
organization that embraces virtually the entire spectrum
of sport aviation. Her unique contributions continue today
as she plays an integral role in the annual Oshkosh AirVenture
by supervising the functions of the guest relations office.
In 1961, the Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees
(as the 13 aviators later became known) were sworn to
secrecy about astronaut candidate testing they underwent
in New Mexico. They went through a week of medical tests--the
same tests performed on the Mercury Seven astronauts.
The women met the selection criteria of under 35 years
of age, good health, a second-class medical, a four-year
college degree, a commercial rating or better, and all
had over 2,000 hours of flying time. However, they were
not selected as astronaut candidates. The trainees were
K. Cagle, Jerrie Cobb, Jan Dietrich, Marion Dietrich,
Wally Funk, Jane Hart, Jean Hixson, Gene Nora Jessen,
Irene Leverton, Sarah Ratley, B. Steadman, Jerri Truhill
and Rhea Woltman,
Dr. Sheila Windnall served as the first female
Secretary of Air Force from 1993 to 1997. She was responsible
for and had the authority to conduct all Department of
the Air Force matters that include recruiting, organizing,
training, administration, logistical support, maintenance
and welfare of personnel. Dr. Widnall also served as a
faculty member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
for 28 years and became an associate provost at the university
in 1992. A professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
she is internationally known for her work in fluid dynamics,
specifically in the areas of aircraft turbulence and the
spiraling airflow, called vortices, created by helicopters.
Amelia Earhart began flying at the age of twenty-three.
She obtained her license with money she saved from her
salary as a nurse. In April 1928, she joined a transatlantic
flight as the first woman passenger and became a national
heroine. She later flew across the Atlantic and the Pacific
making her the first woman to do so. Earhart participated
in the first Women's Air Derby and was a founder of the
99's. She also helped start the airline that later became
TWA. In addition, she was the aviation editor at Cosmopolitan
magazine. Her biggest challenge was an around-the-world
flight at the Equator. something that had never been attempted.
Unfortunately, the plane with Earhart and her navigator
vanished near Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
Betty Skelton Frankman began flying at an early
age and soloed "legally" on her sixteenth birthday. She
became internationally famous after winning acrobatic
championships, races and setting records. She worked for
Eastern Airlines while also obtaining her commercial,
flight instructor, single-engine land and sea, and multi-engine
ratings. Active in the Civil Air Patrol since its beginning
in the early forties, she held the rank of Major. She
became a test pilot, occasionally flew helicopters, jets,
blimps and gliders. In 1948, Frankman purchased a Pitts
Special experimental bi-plane, a single-seater open cockpit
airplane weighing only 544 pounds. Her air race victories
resulted in her plane, "Little Stinker," becoming the
most famous acrobatic aircraft in the world. It is now
displayed in the National Air and Space Museum
Patty Wagstaff flies one of the most thrilling
acrobatic performances in the world. She is a three-time
U.S. National Acrobatic Champion and six-time member of
the U.S. National Aerobatic Team. The airplane that Wagstaff
first flew to victory in the 1991 U.S. National Aerobatic
Championship, the prototype BFGoodrich Aerospace Extra
260, was inducted into the National Air & Space Museum
in Washington, DC. One of the few pilots in the world
who combines professional airshow flying with competitive
aerobatics, Wagstaff's remarkable skill and artistry in
the air are admired by judges and spectators throughout
the world. She has performed for audiences in the USA,
Canada, Mexico, Argentina, England, France, Switzerland
Navy Women Navigators of WWII During World
War II, many women became WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer
Emergency Service). The WAVES were part of the Navy and
were similar to the WAFS/WASP in that they served their
country during the war. The Navy had women officers as
Air Navigation Instructors, some of whom received flight
pay and wore wings. These women were sent for celestial
navigation training to replace the men for combat or Naval
Air Transport Service (NATS) duty. They were generally
assigned in pairs to various bases around the country
after satisfactory completion of training.
Loretta Jones has been a licensed pilot since
1957. She has earned all ratings through Air Transport
Pilot and is a certificated flight examiner. Loretta estimates
that she has logged more than 25,000 hours in her logbook.
Her pioneering spirit has helped pave the way for increased
flying opportunities for those who were once know as "girl
pilots." She has instructed nearly 1,000 student pilots
during the past forty years. She was instrumental in changing
hiring policies at airlines, and even trained the first
female United Airlines pilot among her countless students.
Harriet Quimby's early career was spent as
a writer. She became the first licensed female pilot in
the United States on August 1, 1911 (ten years prior to
Amelia Earhart), In November of the same year, she was
on of the first women to fly an airplane in Mexico City.
In 1912, she wrote, "The airplane should open a fruitful
occupation for women. I see no reason they cannot realize
handsome incomes by carrying passengers between adjacent
towns, from parcel delivery, taking photographs or conducting
schools of flying." At the time, she was the only woman
writing about and encouraging other women to enter aviation.
Jacqueline L. Smith joined the Navy right after
high school to become an air traffic controller. During
her 30-year ATC career, she helped many other women succeed
in ATC. In 1968, she and Sue Mostert (Townsend) founded
Professional Women Controllers, Inc. The organization
started with 70 members and has now grown to more than
800 FAA, military and international controllers. Smith
continued to develop her own career and to inspire other
women in the FAA. Her FAA "firsts" included several positions
from the first woman manager of an Air Route Traffic Control
Center to the first woman Regional Administrator in the
FAA). Smith continually fostered programs and processes
that considered the human side of work.
The Whirly-Girls, Inc. was organized in 1955
by Jean Rose Howard when there were only thirteen helicopter-rated
women around the world. The nonprofit, educational and
charitable organization's original goals were "to promote
interest among all women in rotary wing craft, to establish
scholarships to help other(s) learn to fly helicopters,
and to provide a standby women's helicopter reserve for
civil defense and other national emergencies." As times
changed, the Whirly-Girls de-emphasized the latter in
the interest of securing helicopter landing areas for
hospitals and promoting heliports. Since the organization's
formation, more than 1,000 individuals from 29 countries
have become members.
Arlene Elliott has been a steady promoter of
general aviation for more than 60 years. She and her husband
Herbert began Elliott Aviation, a fixed base operation,
in 1936. Over the years, the Elliott's expanded their
operation to include a dealership for Piper and Beechcraft
airplanes. Elliott soloed in a Piper Cub in 1936, but
chose to direct her personal efforts toward the development
and promotion of general aviation. She was instrumental
in "the turnaround of the bankers' attitude" toward the
financing of aircraft purchases. Arlene Elliott exemplifies
the entrepreneurial spirit and was an early aviation woman
Gloria Heath is recognized as a leader in establishing
an international safety information dissemination service
and providing a unified global response to distress occurrences
for land, sea and air. She also is known for extending
opportunities for women. She was one of the founders of
the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF). Heath worked for American
Export Airlines, then flew as a WASP in WWII. She was
the director of Summer Aviation Programs at Connecticut
College, employed by Aero Insurance Underwriters, assistant
director at Cornell-Guggenheim Aviation Safety Center
and a consultant for the search and rescue operation,
SAR-ASSIST. Heath was one of the FSF founders on its Board
since its inception in 1970.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh has promoted aviation
from its earliest days and has, in turn, inspired many
women. Lindbergh was the first woman to earn a glider
pilot's license in the U.S. She was determined to help
her husband Charles on his pioneer routes for the airlines
industry. In order to do so, she learned Morse code and
earned a radio operator's license. Today, Lindbergh is
best known as a writer. Her early books are eloquent travelogues
of pioneering adventures in the air. Her natural tendency
towards quiet introspection and observation came to fruition
in literary works that remain among her greatest contributions
June D. Maule is the CEO and exclusive owner
of Maule Air, Inc., the world-renowned manufacturer of
MAULE STOL airplanes. She was the wife and business partner
of the late B. D. Maule, aircraft designer and manufacturer.
For 55 years she operated, with her late husband, the
administrative aspect of Maule aircraft and aircraft parts
manufacturing facilities. There have been approximately
2,150 Maule airplanes built since 1940. At age 82, Maule
reports to work daily except when attending club meetings
or hosting missionaries and dignitaries.
Katherine Cheung received her pilot's certificate
in 1932 as the first licensed Asian American aviatrix
in the U.S. In 1935, she obtained an international airline
license and flew as a commercial pilot. She flew aerobatics
in an open cockpit Fleet and regularly entered competitive
air races including the Chatterton Air Race in 1936.Bom
in China in 1904, Cheung came to the U.S. to join her
father, a Los Angeles businessman. She attended the Los
Angeles Conservatory of Music (and later the University
of Southern California) where she studied music and piano.
She was married in 1924 to George B. Young. In 1931, a
pilot cousin invited Cheung to take an airplane ride.
That was when her love for flying began and she signed
up for flying lessons. She was disturbed at the news that
women were not allowed to enroll in Chinese flying schools
in her homeland. Cheung received her certificate in 1932,
at a time when only 1% of licensed pilots in the U.S.
were women. She also became a member of the Women's International
Association of Aeronautics that year. Cheung then began
her aerobatics/air show career. From 1933 to 1937, she
entered numerous competitive air races and continued her
aerobatics career. In 1935, she was invited to become
a member of the International Association of Women Pilots,
the Ninety-Nines, and became friends with Amelia Earhart.
Following the Japanese invasion of China and the disappearance
of Amelia Earhart in 1937, Cheung declared her intention
to return to China and participate in the War effort by
opening a flying school to teach Chinese volunteers to
fly. However, a male friend was soon killed while flying
her airplane. Cheung's father, who was seriously ill and
near death at the time of the accident, worried that something
similar might happen to his daughter and secured a promise
from her to give up flying. Cheung is listed in the Smithsonian's
National Air & Space Museum as the nation's first Asian
aviatrix. The Beijing Air Force Aviation Museum calls
her "China's Amelia Earhart." Today, Cheung lives in Thousand
Jerrie Cobb, a native of Oklahoma, learned
to fly at age 12. She worked at small county airports
after school and weekends to gain flying experience and
learn aircraft mechanics. At age 18, she became a professional
pilot whose jobs included pipeline patrol flying, charter
flying, flight instruction, crop dusting and ground school
instruction. Cobb worked as an international ferry pilot
delivering USAF military fighters and bombers to countries
around the world in her early twenties. She later set
four world aviation records for speed and distance, and
two for altitude. Cobb was selected in 1959 as the first
woman to undergo astronaut selection tests. She passed
all three phases of the grueling tests, but was not allowed
to fly into space because of her gender. Cobb has received
many awards and honors including the Amelia Earhart Gold
Medal of Achievement, Pilot of the Year by the National
Pilots Association, Captain of Achievement by the International
Academy of Achievement and the Bishop Wright Air Industry
Award for "humanitarian contributions to modem aviation."
She also was awarded the Harmon Trophy as the world's
best woman pilot by President Nixon at age 42.
Marion P. Jayne is recognized on six continents
for world records, pioneering achievements, entrepreneurial
innovations and encouragement of women to be successful
in the field of aviation. She is the only U.S. pilot to
have raced her airplane in two competitions around the
world. Jayne and her daughter, Pat Keefer, received the
F6d6ration A6ronautique Internationale (FAI) Gold Medals
for winning the longest race in history--24 days around
the world. She is the first and only U.S. pilot to win
the FAI Gold Medal as pilot-in-command. Jayne was 39 when
she had her first lesson and earned her private, commercial,
instrument, instructor and instrument instructor licenses
in record time. She was the 12th woman to receive her
ATP and did all this within five years of her introductory
flight. Jayne broke new ground in the 1960's as the corporate
pilot for the business she owned with her husband. She
was so widely known as an excellent pilot of the Piper
Twin Comanche, nicknamed the widow-maker, that she was
invited to testify before Congress when it was investigating
the Twin Comanche's safety record. A true innovator, Jayne
created many racing techniques that are now a standard
for the sport. She introduced air racing as a marketing
event for national sponsors including insurance companies
and air carriers. She invented the concept of individual
handicaps for competing aircraft and flying starts. Jane
was the first person to create an annual cross country
air race open to male and female pilots. Previously, the
sport was run by women for women. Among her many awards
and honors include induction into the National Aviation
Hall of Fame and being featured at the Niney-Nines Museum
for Women Pilots with her own cabinet, a distinction that
she shares with Amelia Earhart. An 1800-mile cross-country
air race was also renamed the Marion Jayne Air Race in
her honor. In addition to being a world-class pilot, Jayne
was an Olympic class swimmer and accomplished equestrian.
She faced many challenges in her lifetime and few that
she had been a critically ill youngster, a child bride,
homeless after a fire, young widow and single mother.
These challenges made her tenacious, strong and determined
to succeed. Jayne died in 1996.
Louise McPhetridge Thaden was bon in Arkansas
in 1905. Her father helped her develop mechanical interests
by teaching her how to repair the family automobile. She
took her first flight in 1919, a $5 ride with a barnstormer.
While working at a job selling coal in Wichita, Kansas,
Thaden met Walter Beech, the president of the Travel Air
Manufacturing Company. She quickly impressed Beech with
her resolve to pursue a career in aviation and, in March
1927, he arranged for her to work at Travel Air's Pacific
dealership. As office manager, she was given the opportunity
to learn to fly as part of her salary. She soloed in early
1928 and received her pilot certificate, signed by Orville
Wright. She married Herbert von Thaden in July 1928. In
December 1928, Thaden brought the world's altitude record
for women to the U.S. for the first time, reaching an
altitude of more than 20,000 feet. In 1929, she set a
solo flight endurance record for women of over 22 hours
and a women's speed record of 156 miles per hour in a
Wright J-5 powered Travel Air. Thaden was the first and
only woman to ever hold all three records simultaneously.
Later that Mon th, she earned her transport pilot's license,
the fourth woman in the U.S. to do so. Thaden won the
first Women's Air Derby as part of the 1929 National Air
Races from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio.
Later that year, she became a founding member of the International
Organization of Women Pilots, the Ninety-Nines. Thaden
became known as the "girl who beat the guys" by winning
the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race in 1936, establishing
a new transcontinental speed record for women in the process.
As a result, the Federation Aeronautique Intemationale
awarded her the Harmon Trophy as "the outstanding woman
pilot in the United States for 1936." Although Thaden
retired from aviation after the 1937 St. Louis Air Races,
she stayed active in aviation for the rest of her life.
Through her book, High, Wide and Frightened, and many
newspaper and magazine articles, Thaden encouraged women
to pursue aviation careers. She served on the Defense
Advisory Committee on Women in the Services from 1959
to 1961 and, from 1949 to 1970, held numerous positions
with the Civil Air Patrol. Thaden died in 1979.
Mary Barr learned to fly in a piper club in
1946 in Lorain, Ohio. She worked nights in a factory to pay for flying lessons.
Barr then moved to New York to attend aircraft mechanic’s
school and worked on planes during World War II. Barr
has had a varied career including serving as a FAA Pilot
Examiner and Accident Prevention Counselor, and in a variety
of positions within the U.S. Forest Service, including
the first woman pilot and smokejumper. In 1964, Barr became
one of the first four women to compete in the Reno Air
Races. Barr holds several FAA certificates and ratings
including: Commercial, Airline Transport Pilot, Flight
Instructor, Instrument, and Glider. She is also a Ground
Instructor and Airplane and Power plant Mechanic. At the
age of 75, Barr continues to fly for pleasure. She currently
resides in Janesville, CA.
Ann Baumgartner Carl learned to fly in 1940 and
entered Women Air force Service Pilots (WASPS) training
during World War II. She was assigned to tow a target
squadron at Camp Davis, NC, flying Curtiss A-25s. She
was transferred to Wright Field in Dayton, OH, where she
became the first and only female test pilot. It was there
she became acquainted with Orville Wright, a frequent
visitor at the field. On October 14, 1944, Carl became
the first women to fly a jet aircraft, the Bell YP-59A.
A partial list that Carl flew during her WASP service
include: AT-7,AT-17,AT-10,C-45,C-47,A-24, A-25,B-25,B-26,B-17,B-29,P-38,P-40,P-47,P-51,YP-59A
as well as foreign-made Avro Lancaster, DeHavilland Mosquito,
Spitfire, Junkers Ju-88 and the Canadian C-64. After the
WASP disbanded in December 1944, Carl returned to flight
instruction and writing for the New York Times and other
publications. She is the author of more than 2,000 newspaper
columns and magazine articles on science and the environment.
Carl is a graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
She resides in both Kilmarnok, Virginia and Abaco, Bahamas.
Elizabeth (Betty) Pfister learned to fly in
1941 and ferried U.S. Army aircraft for nearly two years
during World War II as a WASP. Since the war, Pfister
has had a varied career including: service as a flight
instructor, a pilot for several nonscheduled airlines,
a stewardess for Pan Am. Airways, and an FAA Accident
Prevention Specialist. Pfister served on President Nixon’s
Women’s Advisory Committee on Aviation from 1969
to 1972. She was also a member of the U.S. Helicopter
Team, competing in the World Championships in 1973 and
1978. Pfister has been instrumental in many Aspen, Colorado,
aviation efforts including: convincing the FAA to provide
a control tower, founding and organizing first hospital
heliport; and founding and serving as the first chairman
of the Aspen Chapter of the Ninety- Nines. A graduate
of Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, Pfister
presently lives in Aspen Colorado.
Elinor Smith was a record breaking pilot who
did everything with a flourish. Smith soloed at the age
of 15 and three months later set an altitude record of
11,889 feet in Waco 9. In 1927, she became the youngest
licensed pilot at the age of 16. In 1930, at the age of
18, she became the youngest pilot, male or female, granted
a transport license by the U.S. department of Commerce.
Other records Smith set include: an endurance record of
13.5 hours in a Burner –Winke biplane in 1929, only
to break that record later that year with 26.5 hours in
a Bellanca CH monoplane and the women’s world speed
record 190.8 in Curtiss military airplane. Also in 1929,
smith and Bobbi Trout set a new women’s refueling
record of 42.5 hours. In 1930, Smith was selected by licensed
American pilots as the “Best Women Pilot In America,”
During the Depression, Smith was a stunt pilot for movies,
air shows and fundraisers for the homeless and needy.
Smith now lives in Santa Cruz, CA, where she is a consultant
to local and national museums.
Fiorenza de Bernardi- Fiorenza de Bernardi has
five decades of accomplishments in aviation. A record
setter, pioneer and tireless advocate for women’s
opportunities in aviation, she has made an indelible mark
on aviation. Born May 22, 1928, in Florence, Italy, she
learned to fly in 1951. Being the daughter of Col. Mario
de Bernardi, a world champion seaplane racer and aerobatics
champion helped. She entered air races in Italy and other
European countries in 1953. De Bernardi has flown the
Twin Otter, Queen Airf , yak -40, and DC-8 aircraft all
over the world. She received her glider pilot certificate
in the 1960s and was the first women in Italy to earn
a glacier pilot certificate. She joined the ninety-nines
in 1956. She became the first women airline pilot in Italy
and one of the first woman airline pilots in Europe when
Aeralpi hired her in 1967 to fly the Twin Otter. She became
the first woman airline caption in Italy in 1969. She
trained in Russia on the YAK-40 for Air Terrenia and flew
this aircraft as a charter demonstration pilot. She worked
as a professional pilot for 18 years until retiring after
suffering severe injuries in an automobile accident in
1985. De Bernardi continued her staunch advocacy for women’s
advancement in aviation after retirement. She founded
and is current vice president of API- Associazione Italiana
Donne Pilota , the Italian Woman Pilots Association. This
organization is now called ADA- Associazione Donne Aria
since its members now include Italian women skydivers.
She is president of FPE- European Women Pilots federation.
She is the editor of Pink Line, a Gallery of European
Women Pilots, a compilation of all pioneering women pilots
in Europe. De Bernardi joined the International Society
of Women Airlines Pilots in 1985 and continued her efforts.
The ISA+21 Merit Scholarship was named for her. This scholarship
is awarded annually to a commercial pilot applicant striving
to further her career.
Julie E. Clark- Captain Julie E. Clark took
her first flying lesson in 1967 while attending the University
of California, Santa Barbra. It was at that point in her
life she knew she wanted to become an airline pilot like
her father, Captain Ernie Clark; however there were a
few obstacles in the way. Ironically, it was her father’s
fate that had a more profound effect on Julie and her
ambition to fly. Captain Ernie Clark flew in the 1960s
when cockpit doors were left unlocked. In 1964 a deranged
passenger barged into the unlocked cockpit with a gun
and killed Captain Clark. That incident brought about
the law requiring cockpit doors to remain locked during
all commercial flights and is named after Clark. Sadly,
her mother had died of accidental causes the previous
year, when Julie was only fourteen. The major hurdle in
becoming a pilot, besides being orphaned at age 15, was
the fact that Clark was a woman. At the beginning of career,
she was told “We’re not hiring woman pilots.”
“Not” was not an option for her, though. Clark’s
first major break came after college in 1976, when Golden
West Airlines hired her, their first and only women pilot.
In 1977, Hughes Airwest (formerly Pacific Airlines, the
same airline her father flew for) hired her and she became
one of the first women to fly for a major airline. Besides
her 25 years as an airline pilot, Julie has also been
performing in air shows for the past 22 years in a 50-year-old
military trainer that she restored herself. She has been
voted “Performer of the Year” several times.
She has flown for Mopar Parts, her corporate sponsor for
15 years, making her the longest sponsored act in show
history. Julie says that if she can inspire just one girl
at each show to become involved in aviation than she feels
she’s done her job.
Doris E. Lockness- Doris Lockness began flying
in the 1930s. Today she holds all of her ratings, from
signal-engine land/sea to free balloon, and those in between.
She started World War II working for Douglas Aircraft
as a Liaison Engineer on the C-4, but then joined Jackie
Cochran’s WASPs and went off to Sweetwater, TX,
to train. Lockness continued to fly after World War II
and earned her helicopter rating in the 1960s, and her
commercial gyroplane rating in 1998 (she was only the
second woman to hold the rating in a constant speed prop
gyroplane). For many years you could pick Lockness out
of the crowd at air shows by her Vultee-Stinson war bird,
“Swamp Angel”, which she flew around the country.
Her contributions to the promotion and public acceptance
of women as pilots in general aviation have been honored
by the ninety-nines in its “Forest of Friendship”
and by the OX-5 Pioneers, which has recognized her with
both its Legion of Merit Award, Pioneer Women’s
Award and Pioneer Hall of Fame. She has also been honored
with the Whirly Girls Livingston Award in 1995, and a
certificate of honor from the National Aeronautic Association
(NAA), as well as the organization’s Elder Statesman
of Aviation Award (1991 and 1995). In 1997 Lockness was
honored again by the NAA, receiving its Katherine Wright
Memorial Award. Lockness aeronautical achievements have
inspired many to set higher goals and stretch to reach
them, encouraging countless women over more than seven
decades to put on their wings and fly.
Blanche Stuart Scott- For Blanch Stuart Scott
aviation was natural. She’d set records in automobiles,
so when Jerome Fanciulli, of the Curtiss exhibition team
asked her if she would like to learn to fly she said,
"yes”. Glenn Curtiss was not exited by the
idea of a woman pilot, but he agreed to give her lessons.
He was so sure she should not fly that he inserted a block
of wood behind the throttle pedal as a limiter. Despite
his efforts Scott managed to fly to an altitude of 40
feet in the air. She continued her lessons and made her
debut as a member of the Curtiss exhibition team at a
Chicago air meet in 1910. Thus began the career of the
woman billed as “The Tomboy of the Air.” Scott
flew for several exhibition teams, performing inverted
flight and “Death Dives” from 4,000 feet.
During her exhibition career she earned up to 500 a week
appearing in meets with luminaries as Lincoln Beachy and
Harriet Quimby. In 1911, Scott found herself inadvertently
setting a record. Scott took off from Minneola one afternoon
and impulsively flew 60 miles before landing back at the
field. It was the first woman’s long distance flight.
Not long after, Scott became the first female test pilot.
In 1912 she flew Martin prototypes before the final blueprints
for the aircraft had been made. Bothered by the public’s
interest in crashes and the lack of opportunities for
woman as engineers or mechanics, she retired from flying
in 1916 and went into radio and film writing (cutting
edge at the time). In the 1950s she came back to aviation
as a special consultant to the Air Force Museum at Wright
Patterson AFB in Dayton,OH.