Monday, April 27, 2009

Ninety-Nines to host touch down of 2010 Air Race Classic

From 1947 to 1977, women pilots would fly a cross country race called the Powder Puff Derby. After the last race, in 1977, the race was renamed the Air Race Classic.

The world's oldest association for women pilots will make the Frederick Municipal Airport the finish line for its annual air race. The Frederick -based Sugarloaf Chapter of the Ninety-Nines is hosting the final stop in the Air Race Classic in June 2010.

The Ninety-Nines is an international organization of about 6,000 licensed pilots from 35 countries. The Air Race Classic celebrates 81 years of all-women transcontinental air racing.

People who are interested in aviatin news in general should bookmark the Indy Transponder blogspot:

He's also on twitter at

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twitter is good for something after all...

I signed up for a Twitter account a couple of days ago, and "Followed" Flygirl, aka Nancy Parrish, who runs the Wings Across America WASP website.

In reading through past twitters, I came across a link she'd shared about Native American WASP OLa Rexroat.

Members of the South Dakota Aviation Association gathered at the hangar at Clyde Ice Field near Spearfish on a 2007 Friday evening to honor four Pioneers in Aviation by inducting them into the SD Aviation Hall of Fame. They also presented the FAA's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award; and certificates to six South Dakotans as the 2007 Combat Air Crew Memorial Award recipients.

One of the four Hall of Fame Inductees was Ola Mildred (McDonald) Rexroat of Edgemont.

Ola was born and grew up in Oklahoma, but spent part of her childhood living with her grandmother at Vetal, South Dakota. She graduated from St. Mary's Indian High School for Girls in Springfield, SD, before attending college at Chadron and in Albuquerque.

Ola graduated from WASP training in the “1944-7” class o­n September 8, 1944 at Sweetwater, Texas. She then spent four months towing targets behind a T6 plane at Eagle Pass Army Airfield, Texas.

The WASP program ended in December of 1944.

Ola then became an air traffic controller. She contnued to fly, by joining an Air Force Reserve Unit in Albuquerque, NM.

Only 800 American Indian women served in World War II and there were 1074 women in the WASP program. Ola is believed to be the o­nly member of both groups: the o­nly American Indian woman who served as a WASP.

Another honoree was also a WASP, Helen Severson. Originally from Summit, SD., Severson was killed during flight training in August of 1943. The other two honorees were Bob Erlandson and Thomas Walenta. (Native Americans in the military)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Over 130 planes lie at bottom of Lake Michigan

Who knew?

WWII-era dive-bomber lifted from Lake Michigan

A dive bomber that had ditched in Lake Michigan on a training run in 1944 was brought to land Friday for restoration in Florida for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The Douglas SBD Dauntless lifted from the water Friday to a pier in Waukegan, Ill., is among 130 to 300 or more planes estimated to have sunk in the lake during training late in World War II.


"Corsairs, Avengers, Dauntless _ any number of World War II aircraft are in the water," said Capt. Ed Ellis, secretary of the foundation that supports the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., where the newly recovered plane will be restored.

Ellis puts the total aircraft sunk in Lake Michigan at more than 300. Taras Lyssenko, co-owner of A&T Recovery, created to recover those planes, thinks the number is closer to 130. Whatever the figure, they are spread over some 2,500 square miles of lake bottom.


Lyssenko said the plane was found in the mid 1990s in more than 300 feet of water, more than 20 miles offshore. He said it took years to obtain Navy permission and secure state and federal permits to mount a recovery.

Because the plane was so deep, submarine robots were called in to survey the area _ and, in recent weeks, to set up ropes used to lift the plane to the surface for towing.

He described the salvage as far more delicate than recovering a ship.

"Ships have all kinds of things you can put chains on. You can't put a chain on this," he said. And it must be lifted very gently. Otherwise, mud-filled wings might get ripped off.

It's likely to be another 18 months to three years before that plane or another Dauntless restored by the aviation museum is ready for the World War II Museum, spokeswoman Clem Goldberger said.


"The pilot survived. We do not recover aircraft if there was a fatality. They're considered gravesites," Ellis said.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Betty Wharton material sent to IWASM

Many months ago, I purchased a copy of the Powder Puff Derby Record - 1947-1977. Turns out, it came from the estate of Betty Wharton, one of the movers and shakers behind the Derby for 6 years (well, a vice-president). She also participated in a few of the races, as well as in other cross-country races.

In addition to the book, there were a few papers: a place card from a 99s meeting where pioneer pilot Betty Gilles had spoken, (don't know who that is? Check out the Women Aviators Wiki at

There was also an elaborate certificate, stating that Betty was a member of the Bier Uber Alles Staffel (Beer Over All Squadron).

And a Silver Wings newsletter called Slipstream (Silver Wings was an organization for pilots who had 25 years of flight time), and a manifest of the pilots in the first cross country race she had ever entered.

So, nothing of monetary value, but of great value as human interest stuff for a female aviator. I am sending it to the Womens' International Air and Space Museum, located in Dayton Ohio. They probably won't put it in a case for all to see - although the Bier Staffel certificate deserves to be framed! - but it will perhaps go into a drawer for "Betty Wharton papers" for any future researcher to take a look at.

If you know of any female pilots, pioneer or otherwise, don't let their papers disappear when they pass away! The IWASM would love them, or failing that, the Texas Women's University - for WASP and the Whirly Birds, and so on. Someone will take them, if you just ask around. Even me (although after I'm done with them I'd donate them to the IWASM).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

May issue of Freedom Seat reviews now available

Two articles:
1. Aviation on stamps. The Curtiss Jenny.
2. Aviation history year by year: 1901

Five reviews:
1. Zero 3 Bravo: Solo Across America in a Small Plane, by Mariana Gosnell (memoir from the 1970s)
2. Patterns, by Bette Bach Fineman (memoirs of ex wife of Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull)
3. Rising Above It, by Edna Gardner Whyte (aviation pioneer)
4. Spreading My Wings, by Diana Barnato Walker (British ATA pilot, first British woman to break sound barrier)
5. Soaring Above Setbacks, by Janet Harmon Bragg (first black woman to earn a commercial pilot's license, just a few years after Bessie Coleman became the first to earn a pilot's license.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Svetlana Kapanina performing aerobatics

A 6-minute video featuring a few pilots, including Svetlana.

Notice where the runway is in the second screencap...

Denver Girls Get Summer Flight Camp Day Passes

Received this press release today:

Powder Puff Pilot Sponsors Future Women Pilots
Two Half-Day Scholarships Available for Summer Camp at Wings

April 14, 2009, Aurora, Colorado – Powder Puff Pilot, a Denver-based web retailer that specializes in pilot gear and accessories for women, is sponsoring two scholarships for Summer Camp at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Each award provides tuition for the morning session, Science of Flight, for a second- through six-grader. During the week-long program, campers learn about the four forces that enable an airplane to fly, complete a flight plan, fly a simulator, and build different types of airplanes. The session concludes with a chance to fly in a real airplane with a qualified pilot from a local EAA Chapter.

Powder Puff Pilot is providing two half-day admissions to Summer Camp at Wings (each a $145 value), held at the museum on the former Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. Winners are selected based on their essay, which describes their aviation goal or role model. “One of the reasons I founded the company was to encourage and inspire girls to pursue aviation,” explained Sue Hughes, owner of Powder Puff Pilot. “I hope this opportunity will launch a life-long love of flying or perhaps an aviation career.”

Wings Summer Camp consists of two half-day sessions—Science of Flight in the morning and Space Adventures in the afternoon. While the Powder Puff Pilot scholarship covers only the morning session, applicants interested in Space Adventures are encouraged to enroll in the full-day program. Winners who have already enrolled will receive a refund for the half-day program. More information about the scholarship—including eligibility, application forms and deadlines, and session dates—is posted on


Powder Puff Pilot was founded in November 2008 by Sue Hughes of Aurora, Colorado. Among the products that it designs and sells are the children’s picture book The Pilot Alphabet, and a page-a-day calendar, This Day in Women’s Aviation. She also writes a monthly column, “Airlooms,” for Flight Plan Magazine. For further information or to order Powder Puff Pilot products, visit or call toll free at 888-801-6628.

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is committed to meeting the educational needs of our community by inspiring and educating the coming generations of aviators, astronauts, scientists and leaders. Located in the former Lowry AFB on the east side of Denver, Wings is housed in a World War II–era Hangar No. 1. For more information, go to or call 303-360-5360.

Media Contact:
Sue Hughes
Aurora, Colorado