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
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