“Just believe in yourself. Study and work hard, and you can get to your goal, no matter what it is, if you just believe in yourself and try“
Betty Tackaberry Blake was a United States aviator who witnessed the arrival of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and was the graduate from the first class of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).
Source: Veteran Tributes
Born on October 20, 1920 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Betty Guild was encouraged to learn to fly by Amelia Earhart whom she met when she was 14 years old. Betty took her first flight at 15. She earned her license from the Civilian Pilot Program at University of Hawaii and went on to complete her commercial and instructor pilot training. On Dec 7, 1941 she witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor from her balcony. She had received her instructor’s rating and regular commercial license the previous afternoon, but civilian flights were immediately banned in Hawaii.
In 1942 Betty married Robert Tackaberry, a naval officer. She later applied and was accepted to the first class of Jackie Cochran’s new experimental flight training program Army Air Corps base in Houston, TX. She served as ferrying pilot stationed in Long Beach, CA. After the WASP was disbanded, she received instruction at the air force officer’s training school in Orlando, FL. She served as simulated flight instructor for air force trainees until 1945, when she divorced Tackaberry and stopped flying.
She later married George Blake, an officer in the Air Transport Command and moved to Arizona. She passed away on April, 9th 2015 at the age of 94. She is believed to be the last surviving graduate of the first WASP training class during World War II.
Wings Across America
Betty Gillies was an American Aviator who became the first pilot to qualify for the Woman Auxiliary Ferrying Service (WAFS) and the first woman to fly the Republic-47 Thunderbolt.
Born in 1908 in Long Island, NY, Betty Gillies, while a student nurse in New York City, began flying in 1928 and obtained her license in May 1929 after 23 hours of flight. She continued to build hours towards her commercial license. She joined the Ninety Nines in 1929, and was serving as their president between 1939-1941 when the US entered World War II.
Betty became one of the original WAFS members in 1942 and later that year, she was named commander of the WAFS stationed at New Castle Army Air Base in Delaware. She became the first woman to fly the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in March 1943. WAFS name was changed to Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in 1943, and Betty remained as squadron leader of the WASP assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group at New Castle Army Air Base until they were disbanded on December 20, 1944.
After more than 50 years in the air, she stopped flying in 1986 due to vision problems. She died on October 14th, 1998 in San Diego.
March is Woman History Month and Women of Aviation Month
Teresa James was a stunt pilot and barnstormer known for two key things – flew more P-47 Thunderbolts than any other pilot during the war and she also had the distinction of ferrying the “10 Grand” which was the 10,000th Thunderbolt off the Republic Aircraft assembly line.
Born on January 24, 1914, in Pittsburg, PA, Teresa James soloed at age 19 and became the first female flight instructor to graduate from Buffalo Aeronautical Institute. She received her commercial transport license October 1941, with over 600 hours. She performed as a stunt pilot at air shows around Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. She flew the mail, hauled parachute jumpers, and worked at her family’s flower shop.
In October 1942, she was sworn into to the Woman Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and was the first WAFS pilot to fly a military plane (PT-19) coast-to-coast across the United States. She stayed with the WAFS as they were merged to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and until the organization was disbanded on December 20, 1944.
She resumed giving flying lessons and in 1950, accepted a commission in the Air Force Reserve, retiring 27 years later at the rank of major after serving in Pennsylvania, California and Alaska. She was a member of the Ninety Nines since 1939. Her WAFS uniform is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D. C.
She flew her final flight in July 2008, and passed away on July 26th, 2008 at the age of 94 years.
March is Women History Month and Women of Aviation Month.
Ninety Nines – Teresa James
WAFS – Teresa James
Wikipedia – Teresa James
Foundation for Women Warriors – Teresa James
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