The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII
Written by P. O’Connell Pearson, Fly Girls, tells the stories of the daring women pilots who helped win World War II. Only men were allowed to fly military airplanes and as war loomed, the US Army Airforce had a desperate need for skilled pilots. Through pure determination, 1,100 female pilots were finally allowed to ferry planes from factories to bases, to tow targets for live ammunition artillery training, to test repaired planes and new equipment among other things.
There is Jacqueline Cochran whose persistence and perseverance in appealing to the US Army Air Corps, or advancing the ideas to General Arnold at a White House event to allow women to support the military pilots by conducting noncombat flying jobs finally paid off. She was invited to head a program for training women pilots. As head of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) she supervised the training of over one thousand women to fly experimental Air Force planes.
There is Nancy Harkness Love who convinced Col. Tunner of using experienced women pilots to supplement the existing pilot force and was instrumental in recruiting 29 experienced women pilots to join the newly created Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS). During her tenure as Commander of the ferrying squadrons the WAFS merged with the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and became a single entity: the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
There is Cornelia Fort who was airborne on that fateful day and saw with her own eyes when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. She went on to become the second applicant to be accepted to the WAFS. She along with many other women pilots flew successful aircraft deliveries.
Fly Girls covers the stories of these and other daring women who through their grit and determination, patriotism, love of flying, and willingness to serve worked tirelessly during the war effort and helped win the war.
A brief description about the book on Amazon reads:
“In the tradition of Hidden Figures, debut author Patricia Pearson offers a beautifully written account of the remarkable but often forgotten group of female fighter pilots who answered their country’s call in its time of need during World War II.”
“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.
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.
Cornelia Clark Fort was a United States aviator who became famous for being part of two aviation-related events: Pearl Harbor and second woman to join the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).
Cornelia Fort was born in 1919 in Nashville, TN. Her interest in aviation was born at a young age of five when she watched a barnstormer perform in the Curtiss Jenny. She took her first lesson in 1940 and was hooked becoming an instructor in 1941. Her first job was at Fort Collins, CO flight school where she was the only woman flight instructor in a government sponsored pilot training program.
One warm December morning Cornelia and her student were out flying. The student practiced, honing his skills prior to solo flight, practicing take-offs and landings and level flight when Cornelia observed a military aircraft headed in their direction. While not unusual since the military base was next to the civilian airport, something was off. It was December 1941. Knowing something was off, Cornelia had seized the controls from the student and averted an incident with the oncoming aircraft, and watched in utter disbelief, as the Japanese aircraft passed by. She and her student landed and fled to safety.
Knowing US was soon headed to war she was interested in contributing to that effort. She accepted a instructor position at Andrews Flying Service in Honolulu in September of 1941 and by December of that year she had 300 flight hours. In September of the same year she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Service (WAFS). WAFS was created in September 1942 within the Air Transport Command, under Nancy Harkness Love’s leadership. WAFS were recruited from among commercially licensed women pilots with at least 500 hours flying time and a 200-hp rating.
She was based in Long Beach, CA and checked out in the BT-13 and participated in ferrying missions. It was during one of those missions when she was transporting a group of pilots from Long Beach to Dallas, TX in March 1943, she perished in during a mid-air collision with another aircraft that resulted in her aircraft crashing to the ground. She was the first of the WAFS to be killed on a mission.
March is Women History Month and Women of Aviation Month.
Ormand Beach (OMN) was nice a little airport to put up for the night. We parked overnight at Sunrise Aviation and took a cab down to South Atlantic Avenue. Although we intended to stay at the Best Western on the beach, we ended up staying in a condo rental called Georgian recommended by our cab driver. The Georgian is a recently renovated condo community with beach access. The decor resembled and gave the impression of living on a cruise ship. The studio apartment itself had a kitchenette, a bedroom and a living area with a sofa bed (with convenient shades to keep the light off the bedroom if necessary from the morning glare or for privacy) and a sheet of heavy glass french doors opening out into a balcony facing the beach and Atlantic Ocean. At $74 per night this was a steal, the lowest price we had paid for a room on this trip! There were plenty of restaurants within walking distance. After dinner it was pleasant to walk on the beach and hear the sound of the waves crashing gently on to shore.
The next day we arrived early at the airport. We wanted to be fueled and off before Nemo arrived. There was a sliver of hope, we could get the best of Nemo. We were one hour further south than we originally intended to be. But there was always hope. The skies at Ormand Beach were clear with no sign of the oncoming storm. Almost. This was the last leg of our journey. If we could stay ahead of Nemo, we would be able to get home by evening.
After topping off at the self serve, we departed and raced north. With tailwinds, there were times when we recorded almost 144kts ground speed. At times, I thought it was possible. I could see gaps in the radar images. If we got to Lumberton before the storm arrived, there was still a chance we would be able to get home that evening. The best route north was to stay ahead of the storm, and this meant over the ocean. What chances did we have over open water? We had already returned our vests at Fort Pierce. Instead we tried to sneak behind and headed towards Jesup Wayne County Airport (KJES). It almost looked like we could get as far north as KJES or so we hoped.
2022 promised to be the year to return to flight finally after a hiatus of more than 4 years. I originally was expecting to return in early 2020, but got waylaid an additional two years due to COVID-19 and all its variants still circulating around the globe.
Getting current presented numerous challenges not the least due to finding an aircraft, an instructor, and good weather, all at the same time. Although I had hoped to get this done in early spring, it took six months after several attempts of scheduling and cancellations. What with one flight school likely closing any time, and another with busy weekend schedules for aircraft/instructor availability, ultimately I had to adjust my schedule for some weekday sessions to complete my flight review. Happy to be current again!
Since my flight review, I have only flown once: a brief short flight to Hyde Field. Next up hope to tackle my instrument profiency check as I return to more regular flying. I did also finally complete my P107 Remote Pilot as well as the recreational certificate. Maybe there will also be some drone flying adventures in the future?
I did visit the National Mall Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and got a preview of the transformation happening to the galleries. Owing to construction and COVID-19, over the last two years the museum has been mostly closed. Starting in October, the museum has reopened with timed reservations until March 2023. The museum has truly transformed. Walking through the galleries made me feel like the museum had leapt 50 years forward from early days of flight in the early 1900s to the 1950s and beyond! Was exciting to see a full gallery dedicated to General Aviation.
The top three most visited posts this past year continue to be:
GA Flying over Niagara Falls
Flying to the Bahamas in a C172
Point to Point Navigation
Interesting to see that the viewership of my Niagara Falls article was five times more than the Bahamas article which reigned at the top of the list until the Niagara Falls article was posted in 2016.
Pilot’s Flight Log for 2022: 7.5 hours.
Less than I hoped but here’s looking forward to more flying adventures in 2023.
Seeing an email informing of the closure of Hyde Field piqued my curiosity. While living and flying in California, there were several occasions when the local aviation groups coalesced, strategized, and organized events and fly-ins to support endangered airports. Santa Monica, Oxnard and Oceano airports come to mind. And how can we forget the abrupt midnight bulldozing of Meigs Field in 2003? Out of curiosity I started to research the reasoning behind this abrupt closure. Although I have flown out of Potomac Airport (VKX), one of the “Maryland 3” airports, I have never flown into or out of Hyde Field. As I pondered the closing announcement, an intriguing idea started to take shape: How about doing a flight into Hyde Field and recording a landing before it closes?
Washington Executive Airport (W32) or Hyde Field, is a public-use general aviation (GA) airport located near Clinton, MD. It is one of the “Maryland 3” airports located within the Washington, D.C. Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), and subject to the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) restrictions imposed by the FAA. The third airport being College Park (CGS).
Hyde field was built by Arthur Hyde and opened in 1934 as a training field for United States Army aviators to support primary flight training during WW2. The earliest known depiction in a sectional chart was in the 1941 Washington Sectional Chart, which depicted Hyde Field as a commercial / municipal airport. Earliest known aerial photo from 1943 depicts the airfield as having four runways. A 1960 Jeppesen Airway Manual depicts two runways. Hyde Field currently has a single runway. Due to the onerous SFRA restrictions leading to declining revenues at the airport, in 2008 there were plans to shut it down and redevelop the land. The airport has been on sale for the past 15 years with the latest sale in 2020 falling through and ending up in bankruptcy court.
A recent AOPA article from Feb 2022 on following John Wilkes booth’s escape route notes: “Civil War buffs and conspiracy theorists will want to visit the Surratt House Museum, three miles northeast in Clinton, Maryland… The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum is located 17 miles southeast of the airfield. Mudd was the doctor who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth on the morning after Lincoln’s assassination…. Booth fled south from Mudd’s to Pope’s Creek, where he boarded a boat to cross the Potomac River into Virginia. Today, that spot is close to Captain Billy’s Crab House and Gilligan’s Pier (a steak and seafood restaurant that is operated seasonally). Enjoy a lunch of Maryland blue crabs at one of these waterfront restaurants and contemplate Booth paddling across the river in the dark of night, trying to make his escape.”
A little after 10 am, Marianne and I set off from Maryland Airport (2W5) in the Citabria, not the same one I did my tailwheel training, but a similar one. It really is a fun aircraft to fly, and it was great to be back in the air in it. A couple of touch and goes to refamiliarize myself again with stick and rudder flying, and off we went for the short hop to Hyde Field. The weather gods had relented. It was calm, and pristine day with clear blue skies. Rain was expected later in the night and next day, but for now, it was perfect flying weather. We couldn’t have asked for a better day for our brief flying adventure.
We had already negotiated our arrival into Hyde Field with the airport manager, filed a FRZ flight plan, received clearance, and within a few minutes we arrived at our destination. The runway was already in a sorry state for lack of maintenance. And no, we did not visit Surratt House Museum, or contemplate Booth’s escape across the Potomac over crab cakes. We did walk around the airport checking out the abandoned and dilapidated hangars and contemplated the loss of the airport to GA. Out of the more than 100 aircraft based at the airport, only 30 still remain according to the Airport Manager. By the end of the month, they too will be gone, as developers tear down everything and begin construction of residential houses. After topping off at the self-serve fuel station, we retraced our path and the short return trip back to Maryland airport.
It was a trip down memory lane for Marianne who had originally based her aircraft there decades ago. When I had reached out to her to gauge her interest, she was immediately enthusiastic to participate in the adventure. It is saddening to see the airport close, but the location, the closeness to Washington DC, mere steps away from Andrews Air Force Base, the stringent FRZ requirements, residential neighborhoods, and a host of other factors likely contributed to the fate of the airport. GA Airports constantly face such challenges and will continue to face them.
Come 5pm November 30, 2022, Hyde Field will be no more. This single landing is symbolic at best, but a show of support for an airport that once served its purpose.
FAA officially published Part 107 in 2016 and published an ammended version in Jan 2021. Part 107 allows certificated remote pilots to operate a small drone less than 55 lbs. for commercial use and the operations can be conducted over people, at night and from moving vehicles.
The key requirements to obtain the remote pilot certificate are to take the Part 107 course, knowledge test and obtain a FAA tracking number (FTN). There are two options available depending on whether you are a first-time pilot or an existing Part 61 pilot. The steps for either option is similar with the only difference being that first time pilots have to use an FAA approved Knowledge Testing Center, while Part 61 pilots can complete the course and take the test online. One requirement for existing Part 61 pilots is to have a current flight review within the last 24 months. After successful course completion, Part 61 pilots can use one of the available 4 methods to complete the process: make an appointment with FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), FAA designated Flight Examiner (DPE), airman certification representative (ACR) or FAA Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).
In order to fly a drone for recreational purposes, there is no requirement to get a Part 107 certificate. Instead, the FAA requires recreational flyers to take and pass the Recreational unmanned aircraft system (UAS) Safety Test (TRUST) and carry the proof of passage when flying. The rules for recreational flyers are coded in USC 44809 and key requirements include following the rules of a Community Based Organization (CBO), always keeping the drone in sight, not interfering with existing national airspace system (NAS) operations, flying at or below 400ft in uncontrolled airspace, and at or below authorized altitudes in controlled airspace, carry proof of test passage, current registration (for Part 107), remote ID (for registered drones after Sept 2023), and to always ensure safety.
I have been thinking about getting my remote pilot certificate for some time now. Although, owing to not being current, I delayed getting the certificate. Now that I am current again, as a first milestone, I completed both my Part 107 remote pilot certificate as well as the recreational flyer TRUST course. The Part 107 course takes two solid hours to review the material and take the test, and the required a trip to the FSDO to submit and get a temporary certificate. The final one will be mailed within 6 months. The TRUST course on the other hand was fairly concise and can be completed in 30-40 minutes. Both Part 107 remote pilots and recreational flyers need to review the corresponding courses every 24 months.
It was just after I got my private pilot license, one of the first airshows I attended was the Salinas International Air Show. The biggest attraction was the Sean Tucker and Team Oracle. Local news was abuzz that year:
“Tucker returns with the excitement and enthusiasm of a kid who”s back to play before his hometown crowd. Having won the Championship Air Show Pilots Association (CASPA) Challenge for the fourth straight year this past July, he also brings the very best that the world of aerobatics has to offer.”
After watching him fly and see my very first airshow, I came away with excitement too. Aerobatics was on my mind. Tucker School of Aerobatics was a mere short drive away from my airport homebase and I even made the trek up there to checkout the school and aerobatics training opportunities.
Oracle Challenger III, the aircraft now graces the Thomas Haas We All Fly exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. Since that first airshow, I have seen the Oracle Challenger at many airshows around the country, so excited to see it displayed at NASM.
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