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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