Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bourchinal, Bob Hoover and Tom Peterson in Zero 3 Bravo

I finally finished Zero 3 Bravo and quite enjoyed it.

Author Mariana Gosnell is a journalist, so she had no need of a ghost writer to put this book together. It's well written and keeps your interest. It's not a saga of a woman overcoming barriers to become a pilot, but rather simply of a pilot flying across country, and the people she meets in all the small airports she visits. She does share a couple of anecdotes that only a female pilot would probably notice or think about - a few times when she was greeted at an airport with condescension or surprise, a time a married woman confided to her how trapped she'd felt in her marriage ever since she'd learned to fly, but over all it's just the stories a pilot-pilot would share.

Mariana is knowledgeable about the wide variety of planes and of pilots. She meets people with interesting stories to tell, for example she was present when Bryan Allen powered the Gossamer Condor around the figure 8 course which won its designers the Kremer Prize.

She meets a couple of Midgetts - two children in a family of Midgetts that have served in the Coast Guard since the late 1800s. (Although they are apparently a well-known family, and used to have news articles written about them each year when the had a family reunion, they don't seem to have a presence on the web, but it's really an inspiring story. Over 150 Midgetts have served in the Coast Guard in the past several decades. (Read about the USCG Midgett : it is named for the late Chief Warrant Officer John Allen MIDGETT, Jr. - born in 1876 in Rodanthe, North Carolina and served for nearly forty years with the U.S. Lifesaving Service and the Coast Guard. He was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for his heroic rescue of 36 crewmen from the torpedoed British tanker MIRLO in 1918. Bos'n Midgett and his lifeboat crew rescued the entire crew, despite rough seas and flames from the tankers cargo of refined oil and gasoline. J.A. Midgett, Jr. was also one of seven of Midgett family members to have been awarded the nations highest award for saving a life - the Gold Lifesaving Medal. More than 150 living members of the Midgett family have made the Coast Guard a career, including more than thirty still on active duty.

She also flew in just as the Reno Air Races were being prepared - and mentions Bob Hoover, but doesn't really go into detail about who he really was - just mentioned him as an aerobatic pilot known as the "Flying Brain Surgeon" because of the precision of his routine.

She also spent some time with Isaac Newton Burchinal, Jr., (called Junior) the owner of the Flying Tigers airport, which was full of World War II planes which he taught people to fly. He called it Warbird School. Although she admired him for his pilot skills, there were some personal quirks she did not care for - she paints a no-flaws-withheld portrait of the man. (And as a matter of fact, Burchinal just died about a year ago. There's a message board where people discussed his legacy. (

And she also spends time with Tom Peterson, the pilot who flew presidential candidate Jimmy Carter around Georgia until he was elected. (Although the book was published in 1993, she's detailed a 3-month trip she took in the late 1970s.) (,9171,911856,00.html)

Anyway, one thing that always annoys me with memoirs and travel tales of this nature are that they rarely contain indexes. So, I usually end up making one myself, and I have done so in this case. It's nothing fancy - just the names she mentions throughout the book. If you're interested in reading the book and want to see specifically whom she talks about, or if you're an aviation researcher and simply collect indexes, you can download this index here:

Women in Aviation from Sport's Illustrated's Vault

The SI Vault is online, and there are a few - a very few - articles on women pilots in its recesses.
Across America With the Powder Puffs, by Bill Maudlin. July 18, 1955
Up and Up Goes Jerrie Cobb (one of the Mercury 13), August 29, 1960
Fiance of Danger - a profile of 86-year old Marie Marvingt, June 26, 1961
Fly Away On Ladies Day, (Profile of Powder Puff Derby and its Silver Anniversary) July 19, 1971
With A Huff and a Puff (Profile, Powder Puff Derby), July 30, 1973
She Flies Through The Air With the Greatest of Ease: A profile of Edna Gardner Whyte, January 16, 1984

Friday, January 30, 2009

So many books, so little time

I blogged a coupe of days ago that I'd received the book, Captain Gramma to review... (she's also going to give me an interview)

Today I just finished Zero 3 Bravo: Solo Across America in a Small Plane, by Mariana Gosnell. Gosnell flew across America in the late 1970s, the book wasn't published until 1993, but it makes for good if rather melancholic reading. Who in today's economy could afford to fly cross country, even if there was still enough uncontrolled air space to make it worth while.

I've actually got dozens of older books to read - I've been picking up lots of used books from, sadly, most of them are "de-accessioned library books" - meaning I suddenly own a book which now, hundreds of people going to that library will never be able to read. I'm never sure if they de-accession books once they reach a certain age, or if they track th ose that haven't been checked out in five years or something, and get rid of those...

Anyway...I'll be doing lots of book reviews and articles in the next few days...

I'll also start up a library of Women in Aviation books, so anyone who'd like to borrow books from me may do so...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Captain Gramma: Single Mom to Sky High

Just received this book: Captain Gramma: Single Mom to Sky High, by Nancy Welz Aldrich, for review, and will be reading it and reviewing it within the next couple of days.

Here's the backmatter:

A woman pilot? Everyone laughed at her. Everyone told her she was crazy. But Nancy Welz Aldrich, a 37-year old single mother of two, decided, once and for all, that she was going after her lifelong dream. With little money but plenty of perseverance, ldrich learned to fly. She worked as a travelling instructor and ferried airplanes before she was eventually hired by United Airlines.

In Captain Gramma,, she candidly tells how she rose through the ranks at United amidst great sexism and animosity. Best of all, Aldrich tells her story with plenty of humourous and shocking anecdotes, from taming unruly passengers to braving an emergency landing to sharing layover apartments with unexpected roommates.

Gi behins tbe scenes on an airline strike, ride in the cockpit, and feel the pull of flight simulators along the way with Aldrich's life journey.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winners of the Powder Puff Derby (1947 - 1997)

The first Powder Puff Derby was held in 1929. There was one fatality - Marvel Crosson (the cause of her death is a mystery, but most experts conjecture there was a faulty vent allowing Co2 buidup in the cockpit, which disoriented her and caused her to crash), and the winner was Louise Thaden.

The race was re-inaugurated in 1947, and lasted for 30 years. There were no fatalities during these 29 races (1974 was cancelled due to the national fuel crisis).

March 10-13, 1947. 2 aircraft entered, 3 pilots.Carolyn West won first place. Her copilot was Beatrice Medes. Dianna Bixby never managed to take off, thanks to plane trouble.

June 1-4, 1948
. 6 aircraft (7 pilots). Winner: Frances Nolde.

May 31 - June 3, 1949
. 16 aircraft (27 pilots). Winner: Lauretta Foy and Sue Kindred.

June 11-16, 1950. 33 aircraft (51 pilots) Winner: Jean Parker and Boots Seymour.

August 15-19, 1951. 44 aircraft, (77 pilots). Winner: Claire McMillen and Frances Bera

July 4-9, 1952. 41 aircraft, (68 pilots) Winner: Shirley Blocki Froyd and Martha Baechle

July 3-7, 1953. 49 aircraft, (90 pilots) Winner: Frances Bera and Marcella Drake

July 3-6, 1954. 51 aircraft, 95 pilots. Winner: Ruth Deerman and Ruby Hays.

July 2-6, 1955. 47 aircraft, 90 pilots. Winner: Frances Bera and Edna Bower.

July 7 - 10, 1956. 50 aircraft, 87 pilots. Winner: Frances Bera and Edna Bower

July 6-10, 1957. 49 aircraft, 89 pilots. Winner: Alice Roberts and Iris Critchell.

July 4-8, 1958. 69 aircraft, 129 pilots. Winner: Frances Bera and Evelyn Kelly.

July 4-8, 1959. 66 aircraft, 129 pilots. Winner: Aileen SAunders and Jerelyn Cassell

July 9-13, 1960. 85 aircraft, 157 pilots. Winner: Aileen SAunders and June Douglas.

July 8-12, 1961. 101 aircraft, 201 pilots. Winner: Frances Bera.

July 7-11, 1962. 54 aircraft, 99 pilots. Winner: Frances Bera and Edna Bower

July 13-17, 1963. 47 aircraft, 84 pilots. Winner: Virginia Britt and Lee Winfield

July 4-8, 1964. 61 aircraft, 111 pilots. Winner: Mary Ann Noah and Mary Aikins

July 3-7, 1965. 79 aircraft, 148 pilots. Winner: Mary Ann Noah and Mary Aikins

July 2-5, 1966. 91 aircraf, 165 pilots. Winner: Bernice Steadman and Mary Clark

July 8-11, 1967. 76 aircraft, 145 pilots. Winner: Judy Wagner.

July 6-9, 1968. 81 aircraft, 150 pilors. Winner: Margaret Mead and Billie Herrin.

July 4-7, 1969. 95 aircraft, 172 pilots. Winner: Mara K. Culp

July 3-7, 1970. 98 aircraft, 181 pilots. Winner: Margaret Mead and Susan Oliver.

July 5-8, 1971. 150 aircraft, 288 pilots. Winner: Gini Richardson.

July 7-10, 1972. 105 aircraft, 198 pilots. Winner: Marian Banks and Dottie Sanders.

July 13-16, 1973. 108 aircraft, 191 pilots. Winner: Marian Burje and Ruth Hildebrand.

1974 - due to national fuel crisis, the Powder Puff Derby was cancelled in this year.

July 4-7, 1975. 102 aircraft, 187 pilots. Winner: Trina Jarish

July 9-12, 1976. 200 aircraft, 360 pilots. Winner: Trina Jarish

July 1-4, 1977. 150 aircraft. 331 pilots and passengers. Winner: Patricia Udall and Nan Gaylor

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sweet Vibrations: Discovering the First Deaf Pilot: Nellie Zabel Willhite

Way back in the 1920s.... or heck, even up until the 1970s, it was hard enough for a woman to get training to become a pilot at all. Women's roles were pretty firmly fixed and even though they'd proved time and again that they could fly with the big boys, obstacles were placed in their way. (Over a thousand women flew every type of plane imaginable during WWII, as WASP... but could they get jobs as airline pilots after the war? Nope... not until the 1970s.)

So imagine how difficult it must have been to be a woman, and deaf, and want to be a pilot, back in the 1920s. Well, Nellie Zabel Willhite managed it.

I'll be doing an in-depth article for my webzine Winged Victory: Women in Aviation, but thought I'd share this little saga of first discovery with you all.

And here's a book written by a deaf man who wanted to become a pilot in middle age:
A book editor at a struggling big-city daily learned to fly away from his worries, and this cross-continental travelogue is the wonderful result. In previous books, Kisor has written about his deafness (What's That Pig Outdoors?, 1990) and about traveling across America by train (Zephyr, 1994); here he melds the two themes. He tells of an aerial feat from 1911 that inspired him: the first coast-to-coast trip by plane, an achievement that further attracted Kisor because of his affinity with the pilot, who was deaf. Intending to reenact that event, Kisor learned to fly, got a license, bought a Cessna 150, consulted with a prior reenactor, and began his own odyssey. The most tangible quality of the trip is the way Kisor relates sensations of sight and vibration in flight and, once on the ground, his process of communicating with the hearing. Kisor touched wheels as near as possible to the landing spots of that 1911 pilot; as he clambers out to refuel and converse, he collects human-interest stories about the idiosyncratic people who scratch out a living at remote landing strips: fuelers, proprietors, mechanics, cab drivers--a gallery of contemporary characters of Americana. The reader gladly occupies Kisor's right-hand seat, admiring the view, listening to his descriptions and opinions, and imbibing, as Kisor puts it, the "ineffable, almost undefinable impulse to fly." Spouses worried that their middle-aged mates might head for the local airstrip should not let them know about Kisor's memorable journey. Gilbert Taylor

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yvonne Trueman, only Bahrainian-licensed pilot

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Yvonne Trueman, the 70+-year old woman who is the only person to hold a pilot's license issued by the island micro-nation of Bahrain. (Here is a verrrry interesting article about Bahrain which everybody should read - talks about the people, the ruling family, the terror threat)

I just discovered today that I had neglected to include a link to the article I'd been quoting, which gave all her qualifications and accomplishments.

I've written up biographies of her and Sheila Scott (British aviatrix, who flew solo around the world three times, twice in a Piper Commanche, once in a Piper Aztec) and they are posted at the Women Aviators Wiki.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The last week in women's aviation history

I'd intended to share a piece of info a day, but stuff intervened, as it has a habit of doing...

Anyway... what's been on my Women in Aviation Events calendar, which I acquired from (No, I'm not affiliated with them in any way, shape or form, but I want women-owned and women-centric aviation businesses to do well...)

January 9, 1978
Gail Gorski
, a former Kentucky Derby Queen, was the first woman hired by United Airlines as an airline pilot.
Women Aviators Wiki entry on Gorski:

(What is a Kentucky Derby Queen? Founded in 1959 by Frances Askew Davis, the 17-member Fillies Club began their history of volunteer service to the Kentucky Derby Festival. From crowning the first Derby Queen at the Official Derby Ball , the group has grown to an active membership of 250 and were incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1971. Today, the Fillies, Inc publishes the Festival's Official Program, coordinates the Derby Festival Princess Program, creates the Queen's float for the Pegasus Parade and still produces the Fillies Derby Ball.

January 10, and 11, 1935
(Okay, so there's a flaw in this desktop calendar. Saturdays and Sundays are combined on one page, with only one snippet of information to cover both days!)
On this page, "Amelia Earhart became the first person (man or woman) to fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland. The 2,408-mile flight was also the first where a civilian aircraft carried a two-way radio.
Women Aviators Wiki entry on Amelia Earhart:

January 12, 1970
Stunt flyer Blanche Scott died, at the age of 84. She was billed as the "Tomboy of the Air" she had a six-year career as a stunt-flyer, before retiring.
Women Aviators Wiki entry on Scott:

January 13, 1928
South Dakota native Nellie Zabel Willhite soloed. She was the state's first licensed aviatrix. In airshows, she would compete in bombing (dropping bags of flour on targets on the ground) and balloon racing (flying around floating balloons - presumably vary large and easily seen ones!)
Women Aviators Wiki entry on Willhite:

January 14, 1943
US Astronaut Shannon Lucid was born on this day, in Shanghai, China, to Baptist missionary parents.

After getting a biochemical degree from the University of Oklahoma, she volunteered for the astronaut training program and was selected in 1978. She flew on five space shuttle missions and for a while held the record for the most hours in orbit by a non-RUssian, and most by a woman (188). (On June 16, 2007, her record for longest duration spaceflight by a woman was exceeded by Sunita Williams aboard the International Space Station)
Women Aviators Wiki entry on Lucid:
She is married to Michael F. Lucid of Indianapolis, Indiana and they have two daughters and one son, and five granddaughters.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Final Flights...

WASP Jeannette Kapus passed away on January 8, 2009.

A very moving tribute appears to her at the Wasp Final Flight blog kept by Nancy Parrish, the daughter of WASP Sue Parrish, who was great friends with Jeannette "Jan" Kapus.

Nancy Bird Walton has died in Australia, at age 93. She was one of the pioneer aviatrixes, the first woman in Australia to obtain a pilot's license. Her obituary appears in several Australian newspapers, including this one:

I'll be writing an entry on her for the Women Aviators wiki, and you can check that out at

Monday, January 5, 2009

There is no Kara Wade! There is only Donna Kohout!

-- Donna Kohout

I continue to get most of my hits from people looking for Lt. Kara Wade!

Kara Wade is a fictional character, from the movie Stealth. She's billed as the first woman to fly the Stealth attack plane, the Nighthawk (and was played by Jessica Biel) This is because a mass email seems to be sent out on a periodic basis, purporting to be photos of the naval maneuvers of Valiant Sheild. And one of the photos features "Kara Wade" in the cockpit - and doesn't point out that she's a fictional character.

What I want to know is - why wasn't Donna Kohout - the real first woman to fly the Nighthawk, included instead? (Since she did so, at least two other women have also piloted this plane).

Read my interview with Donna Kohout, at:

Donna Kohout: 1st woman to fly the F-117A - Nighthawk.

This is the photo of the fictional Kara Wade:

Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biehl!) in the cockpit of the prototype F/A-37. (Fictional movie, Stealth!)

A photo of the exercises held during Valiant Shield, 2006

Kohout is one of the service people discussed in this book.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Turtle Lady was also a plane lady

On January 4, 2000, Ila Fox Loetscher, 95 years old, passed away.

Ila became the first licensed native Iowa female pilot at age 25, in . At the invitation of her friend Amelia Earhart, Loetscher was one of the 99 charter members of The Ninety-Nines. Also a noted advocate for the care and preservation of sea turtles, this aviation pioneer was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame in 1991.

You can get a biography about her at the Sea Turtle Inc giftshop:

and visit the website there as well!

According to her article at Wikipedia (a copyright free site, I point out!):

Ila Loetscher was born in 1904 in Callender, Iowa as one of a pair of twin girls. She received her early education in Pella, Iowa, before ultimately graduating from the University of Iowa.

From her early life, Loetscher had developed in interested in engines and aviation, and she became, at the age of 25, the first licensed native Iowa female pilot.[1] At the invitation of her friend Amelia Earhart, Loetscher was one of the 99 charter members of the Ninety-Nines, an organization founded in 1929 to promote fellowship and support for female pilots.

By the 1950s, her focus had changed from flying to family. However, when David Loetscher, her husband of 32 years, died in 1955, the family opted for a new beginning and moved to South Padre Island, Texas.

Her work with sea turtles
Shortly after moving to South Padre Island, Ila Loetscher developed an affection for and interest in sea turtles, which would come to define the latter half of her life. From 1963-1967, she accompanied fellow island residents on trips to Mexico to get eggs for the endangered Kemp's Ridley turtle that they would plant and protect on the island, and she received a state license to care for sick and injured sea turtles.

In 1977, Loetscher founded “Sea Turtle, Inc”, a non-profit corporation focused on protecting and preserving sea turtles, particularly the Kemp’s ridley. Her activities on behalf of the turtles gained her the nickname, "The Turtle Lady."

Awards and appearances
Ila Loetscher was inducted into the "Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame" in 1991.[1]
In 2005, she was the first nominee to the “The Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame”[3]
Loetscher appeared in National Geographic documentaries and on numerous television shows, including the Johnny Carson Show, the David Letterman Show, the Today Show, and Real People

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bobbie Trout set woman's solo endurance record on this day

January 2, 1929. Bobbi Trout took off from Van Nuys Airport at 6:25 a.m., and set out on an endurance flight that lasted 12 hours and 11 minutes. Viola Gentry had previously set the record at 8-hours. However, the record would last for only a month -- in February Elinor Smith set the bar at over 13 hours.

Of course, in the early days of aviation, records were being set and broken on a regular basis, as planes became more sophisticated and pilots more skilled. Lots of women pilots - 6% then, as now (which is an interesting statistic) were involved in aviation at this time, withstanding the prejudice from both the male pilots and conservative society alike.

Male pilots didn't like women because of the general perception of women as the "weaker vessel." If women could fly aerobatics and air races, then obviously it was no big deal!

And the conservative public thought that women should stay at home and take care of husband, child and church, and not go out and about and be independent, or worse, show an ankle!

There's a very nice website for Evelyn "Bobbi" Trout at:

And at

Bobbi lived to be 95, passing away on January 24, 2003. Her legacy continues to live on.

: (A commercial site, which sells women in aviation desk calendars, among other items aimed a the woman pilot.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Little Stinker - the oldest Pitt Special still in existence

Jan 1, 1948. Betty Skelton won her first International Feminine Aerobatic Championship at the 16th annual Miami All-American Air Maneuvers. (She'd also win it in 1950.)

The plane she flew both times was the Little Stinker , the second Pitt Special to be built.

Betty sold the plane in 1951, when she decided to try her hand at car racing. She and her husband, Donald Frankman, reacquired the plane after a few years and in 1985 donated it to the Smithsonian Museum.

Little Stinker is still in existence (the oldest Pitt Special to still be intact) now on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.


Woman holds the only Bahrainian private pilot's license

Every day, I do a google news search on "woman pilot" and its variations, to see if there are any new articles.

Today, found one on Yvonne Trueman, a profile of her in the Gulf Weekly, "the community weekly in the heart of Bahrain."

"On the wings of a dream":
PILOT, runner and tireless charity worker, Yvonne Trueman celebrated 40 years in the air this week with a party for friends, family and fellow runners and fliers.

Yvonne first came to the island more than 30 years ago and is the holder of the first, and only, Bahraini Private Pilot's Licence (PPL) ever issued.

She is also Governor of the Middle Eastern area of the 99s, the International Organisation of Women Pilots.

See the complete profile at the link above.