Friday, September 25, 2009

A WASP being interviewed at YouTube

Ironic...or an in-joke... the blurb for this very brief interview, in which the WASP points out that no one knew the WASP existed for 35 years ... is that they don't even say who this woman is! Not in the blurb for YouTube, not in the title of the Video, not in an annotation on the Video.

First name Elaine, I can see that on her name badge...but the last name?

WASP Elizabeth Strohfus at YouTube

Short doc on 89 year old Elizabeth Strohfus

Maggie Gee at YouTube

Maggie Gee was interviewed at the beginning of September 2009 about being a WASP. Only 2 minutes, unfortunately.

Maggie was one of only two Chinese-American women WASP. At least one African-American woman attempted to join also, but was turned down. It would take another decade and the Korean War before integration took place.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Bugatti Queen - Helle Nice

Just checked BBC Radio 7 after a couple of weeks, to find that I'd missed Episode 1 of The Bugatti Queen, the biography of Helle Nice. Well, I'm listening to Episode 2.

Hers is a tragic story. Before WWII she was a famous racing car driver, competing amongst the men in all the glamourous races of the day. After the war, some guy - who had driven for the Nazis himself, accused her in the middle of a party of having been a Gestapo agent during the war. He provided no proof, but that didn't matter. Nice was immediately ostracized, and when she died at the age of 84 it was penniless and alone.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Eagle and the Hawk, Let Joy and Innocence Prevail

The Eagle and the Hawk, two versions by John Denver.

I love this song!

And I've always wanted to expand the song Let Joy and Innocence Prevail (Grace Jones) into a movie...maybe one day, if I ever win the lottery:

WASP Doris Nathan, Mabel Rawlinson, Sue Parish

On Twitter, keeps you informed of all the WASP news:

Three role models to give your girls flight plans (because girls need flight plans, not fairy tales!):

Female flier cherishes `blessed life'. Kalamazoo Gazette, Sunday Sept 20.

It was fall of 1942, the war was on and gas was being rationed for automobiles, but not for airplanes.

Doris Burmester, a California teacher, had always wanted to learn to fly. This was her chance, she thought, so she and another teacher began taking flying lessons.

``I took lessons whenever the weather was nice,'' recalled the 92-year-old Friendship Village resident, whose married name is Doris Nathan.

Nathan heard about Jacqueline Cochran and her attempt to develop a U.S. department of female fliers, and the subsequent formation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. She applied, was accepted and participated in the first training class.

``We were expecting to be part of the military all along, but we weren't,'' said Nathan, who was teamed with Dorothy Eppstein, of Kalamazoo, for most of her time as a WASP. ``There were too many men who thought it was not a good idea.''

Read the complete article at the link above.

WWII women pilots to get 'long-overdue' honor; Local woman who died while serving as a WWII pilot is among them
Mabel Rawlinson was killed on Aug. 23, 1943, when her plane crashed during a training exercise at a military base in North Carolina.

Rawlinson, 26, was a member of a newly formed unit of female pilots serving in World War II. But the pilots were not recognized as enlisted soldiers.

So the U.S. Army did not pay to bring Rawlinson’s body back to her hometown of Kalamazoo. Related content

It did not pay for the small graveside ceremony at Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park.

She received no medals.

“She was forgotten,” said Pamela Pohly, Rawlinson’s niece.

But not anymore.

Click above link for complete story.

Sue Parish pursued lifelong passion for flying
Suzanne DeLano was determined to become a Women Airforce Service Pilot during World War II, even though she didn’t meet the age requirement.

“I wanted so badly to be a part of that group and to serve the war effort to the best of my abilities. I figured if I could just keep exceeding the requirements for entry, my age would be overlooked,” DeLano, who added Parish to her name after she married Preston “Pete” Parish in 1948, said for a Kalamazoo Gazette story when she was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame in 1994.

The WASPs didn’t relent, however, so by the time Parish joined them after her 21st birthday, she had 350 hours of aviation training — 10 times the required amount — from famed Kalamazoo aviator Irving Woodhams. Parish also held commercial, instrument and instructor ratings by that time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No DNA evidence of Amelia Earhart

Got an update from the International Women's Air and Space Museum - one they send out to all subscribers.

As an aside, *I* could have told them what they were about to find out below. Not so much that it wasn't hair, but that even if it was hair, they wouldn't be able to get any DNA off it because the DNA is found in the roots, not in the hair follicles. So says Bones, and every CSI program that exists...

Last week, as part of our monthly e-news, we reported that a sample of hair from Amelia Earhart had been provided by IWASM to TIGHAR for DNA testing. We got an update on the process last night and we wanted to share it with everyone. The hair, quite simply, is not hair. First, a little background. The lock of hair was taken out of a wastepaper basket by Mrs. Lillian Rogers Parks, who served as a maid at the White House for many years, during one of Amelia's stays with the Roosevelts. Mrs. Parks references the hair in her book, "My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House". Mrs. Parks eventually forwarded the lock of hair to the Smithsonian, who sent it to IWASM. And until this year's Amelia Earhart exhibit opened here in March, it stayed tucked in a drawer for many years. The lock of hair included a note from Mrs. Parks, explaining how she came to have it, and this coincided with the story in her book.

Last month, Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of TIGHAR came to the museum to give a lecture. We showed him the hair and he asked for a small sample of it to first, verify that it was indeed Earhart's, and second, to possibly use it to confirm the DNA of artifacts he hopes to recover on TIGHAR's next expedition to Nikumororo, scheduled for May/June 2010. We agreed to provide the sample and proceeded to extract a portion of the hair to send it to TIGHAR. As we were working with it, we became concerned that it was not hair. It did not seem like a number of small strands but rather a couple of longer strands that were difficult to work with. We sent it off to TIGHAR with our suspicion. TIGHAR proceeded cautiously once they received the hair but, based upon an initial look at it, thought that it likely was hair. The sample made its way to the DNA laboratory, who also initially believed it to be hair. But, after the appropriate testing they concluded it was thread and there was no DNA on it.

Many people for many years believed this was a lock of Amelia Earhart's hair. And while this is indeed disappointing news for us we felt it was important to tell the rest of the story.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Girl Tower in the Netherlands

Golf Hotel Whisky (free online magazine and airport guide for pilots) had an interesting article about the Air Traffic Control of the Netherlands hosting an all-women event on August 22, 2009 in an effort to encourage more women air traffic controllers.

The article is in Dutch, but you should be able to translate it from a button at the top of the page (or use

Ambreen Gul is one of seven women trained to fly F-7 supersonic fighter jet

Here's the first paragraph of this story which appears at the CNN: Asia website.

Pakistan's female fighter pilots break down barriers
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Six years ago an ad in the Sunday paper changed a young Pakistani woman's life and made aviation history.

Seven Pakistani women are trained to fly the country's F-7 fighter jets -- though none have seen combat so far.

1 of 2 The ad read: "Pakistan Air Force recruiting females cadets."

Back then Ambreen Gul was 20-years old and living in Karachi. Her mother wanted her to be a doctor. She remembers her reaction when she told her she wants to fly.

"She was like: 'You're a girl,'" says Gul. "How will you do it? How will you fly?"

The following day Gul took the first step in proving her mother wrong. She was among the first in line at the recruitment center.

For nearly six decades it was only men who had flown Pakistan's fighter jets. Today Gul is one of seven women who are trained and ready to fly Pakistan's F-7 supersonic fighter jets.

"This is a feeling that makes you proud and makes you humble also," says Gul.

But humility doesn't mean lack of confidence.

See complete article here:

PR: Mark calendars for Nov 7, 2009. Fly-In Music Fest

Here's a press release from for the First-Ever Fly-In Musicfest

National Event Brings “Stimulus” Home to Spinks Airport, Fort Worth / Burleson

Fort Worth, Texas: The Flying Musicians Association's first major event, the Fort Worth Spinks Fly-In Musicfest on November 7, 2009, is shaping up to be a fun and spirited economic stimulus for the Fort Worth / Burleson area.

Flying Musicians from around the country will showcase live music on two stages. National names as well as local talent (from pros to talented schoolkids) will provide nonstop entertainment. The Fort Worth Songwriters Association will be running two jamming tents where impromptu jams will take place throughout the day, so bring your instrument or your voice! And plan on watching -- or even participating in -- a Native American Flute and Drum Circle.

It’s an aviation theme – how could it be otherwise? – so there will also be excitement in the skies, as well: Aircraft flying, aircraft to look at, photograph, and sometimes climb into, and aircraft rides will be available. The John L. Terry Heritage Foundation will have their WWII-era B-25 Mitchell bomber, Pacific Prowler, and the C47 Dakota (known to civilians as a DC-3) Southern Cross, on the ramp for tours and flights all weekend.

The local Experimental Aviation Association Chapters will be giving free rides to kids (ages 8 through 17) on a first-come basis as part of their Young Eagles program, which has already introduced well over a million kids to flight. There will be vendors, food, aviation seminars, and music for the whole family.

A special guest, Ravi the Aviator (who is also a flying musician) will give his presentation “Making General Aviation Sexy” which he presented at the big Sun ‘n Fun and AirVenture airshows (and which he will be presenting in Florida at the AOPA Summit convention in October). Ravi might even play a few tunes for us as well!

Spellbinding Florida-based author Denis Murphy, who wrote the true thriller, PAN, PAN, PAN: A Survival Story, will be talking with us and signing copies of this book.

If you’re already hooked on aviation, Judy Tarver with FltOps will tell how to land an airline job.

And don't leave early! Fireworks will erupt as the final act performs.

Fort Worth is a destination all in herself: Fly or drive in on Friday and visit the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, the Texas Motor Speedway, the Bass Performance Hall, the Fort Worth Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, the fabulous museums, and resplendent downtown area. Visit for more information. Stay at one of the three hotels within walking distance of the airport and dine at the numerous restaurants. Enjoy the event on Saturday, relax with music and fireworks on Saturday night, then have a relaxing trip home on Sunday.

The Flying Musicians Association, Inc. was formed in 2009 by blending two passions, flying and music. Founded by two pilot/musicians, John Zapp and Aileen Hummel who have made it their quest to encourage, promote, educate and support these two passions, and especially to encourage adventure, awe, and experience through flying and music, generating and fostering the yearning for both amongst young people.
To join please visit

Saturday, September 12, 2009

WASP Maggie Gee awarded Congressional Gold Medal

The Contra Costa Times had an article on Maggie Gee on September 11, 2009.

Maggie Gee is "small, soft-spoken," an 86-year-old woman who lives in Berkeley.

"You would have no idea from meeting Maggie that she's the powerhouse that she is," said Berkeley Councilmember Susan Wengraf. "She's had an extraordinary lifetime adventure."

Maggie worked as a shipyard welder and draftsman at the outset of World War II, learned to fly a plane when she was 18, earned degrees in physics and mathematics at UC Berkeley, lived four years in Europe and worked for nearly three decades as an accomplished physicist at Livermore Lab.

She received the Congressional Gold Medal as a member of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, who served in World War II.

Gee was one of only two Chinese-Americans to qualify.

"When I was growing up," she said, "my heroes were Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. I loved to watch airplanes fly."

Female pilots were [relatively] rare in 1941, when Gee, a Berkeley native, used her earnings as a draftsman at Mare Island Naval Shipyard to pay for flying lessons in Nevada. ("With the war going on, private planes weren't allowed to fly within 150 miles of the West Coast," she explained of the location.)

The WASPs were recruiting there, and Gee recognized opportunity when it beckoned.

"There were only about 1,100 of us chosen out of 25,000 who applied," she said. "It was an exceptional group of women. We all got the same training as the men."

Even if some of the men were less than supportive.

[Hazel Ying Lee was the other Chinese-American accepted to the WASP. She was one of the 38 who made the ultimate sacrifice for her country.]

Gee's story is recounted in a children's book, "Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee," by Marissa Moss, recently published by Berkeley-based Tricycle Press.

"Everything has to be drawn out of her," author Moss said. "She's reluctant to talk about any negative experience — when she was growing up in Berkeley, she wasn't allowed to swim in the public pool because she was Chinese-American. I had to pry to get her to admit any of the discrimination she faced from male pilots."

Gee still is hesitant to embellish.

"Some of the men weren't sure we were ready for this," she said. "Women wouldn't put up with that now, but that was a different time."

The WASPs flew domestic, noncombat assignments, often ferrying planes to destinations where they were needed, but that didn't make them immune to danger. Thirty-eight were killed in the line of duty.

Gee primarily flew training planes, instructing male pilots in instrument flying and co-piloting a B-17 bomber in simulated dogfights. And then, almost as quickly as opportunity had arrived, it vanished. The WASPs were disbanded in 1944.

Gee said she didn't fly again. With male pilots returning from the war, there were few job opportunities for women, but she has no regrets.

"Flying was something I did," she said, "and then I moved on."

Her focus today is political activism. Her passion is social progress.

The Berkeley City Council designated Aug. 30 as Maggie Gee Day, an eight-paragraph proclamation touched on her breadth of civic activities.

Between the first "whereas" and the closing "therefore," Gee was applauded as "an icon of public service" for serving on the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, the 1992 Democratic Party Platform Committee and the California State Democratic Executive Board. She was recognized as a past Berkeley Public Works Commissioner, housing advisory commissioner and board member of the Berkeley Community Fund.

Wengraf presented the proclamation at Gee's 86th birthday party, along with a congratulatory note from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an American flag that had flown over the Capitol.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pam Melroy has retired from NASA

From the Women's International Air & Space Musuem newsletter:

NASA astronaut Pam Melroy has retired from NASA effective August 7th.

She has joined Lockheed Martin.

Melroy last flew as commander of STS-120 in 2007 when there were two women commanders in space simultaneously---Melroy and Peggy Whitson on the space station. She also flew as pilot of STS-112 in 2002 and STS-92 in 2000. Melroy, a retired Air Force Colonel, was the second woman commander of the Space Shuttle after Eileen Collins.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WASP Eleanor Collins Faust flies again

A video interview from

Eleanor Collins Faust, a former WASP during World War II, talks about becoming a pilot and takes a short trip in a bi-plane. Videographer: Ed Betz

Watch it. Enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alaska's Women Pilots: Contemporary Portraits

Alaska's Women Pilots: Contemporary Portraits. Jenifer Fratzke. Utah State University Press. 2004.

Author Jenifer Fratzke doesn't give a precise date, but I assume its 2004: According to the FAA, there are 8,711 pilots in Alaska, 639 of wom are women.

I'll be reviewing this book at Winged Victory shortly.

Commercial pilot: Tamar Bailey
Flight Instructor: Noralie Jennings-Voigt
Big Game Guide and Bush Pilot: Ellie Jones-Elg
Private Pilot: SAnna Green
Helicopter Pilot: Caroline Lachmann-Spivak
Aerobatic Pilot: Darlene Dubay
Aviation SAfety Inspector: Val Aron Jokela