Sunday, February 28, 2010

Meet two Dragon Ladies on March 13

from Aero-News Network:

Smithsonian Celebrates Women In Aviation And Space

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Will Host Events On March 13
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) will host a free "Heritage Family Day" themed around "Women in Aviation and Space" on Saturday March 13, from 10am to 3pm. Events will take place at the NASM's Udvar-Hazy Center where parents and children will learn about the accomplishments of women in aviation, science and aerospace.

Visitors will learn about the accomplishments of Amelia Earhart, the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs), astronaut Sally Ride, and women who are currently contributing to aviation, science, technology, and space exploration. Book signings, story time, and fun and educational hands-on activities will take place throughout the Museum.

Speakers for the day include Maj. Nicole Malachowski, the first female plot in the USAF Thunderbirds exhibition team, and Maj. Merryl Tengesdal and Capt. Heather Fox, two of only six female pilots in the history of the U-2 "Dragon Lady". The Women in Aviation and Space program is presented in partnership with the Girl Scouts of America, and visitors will be able to view science projects by local Girl Scout troops.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Girl Hero Tara (pilot and body-sculptor)

I'm not sure what the last name of this pilot is...I can't find it anywhere, but she's an airline pilot who flies a 737.

She's also a body sculptor (as opposed to a body builder) who works hard at keeping her body in shape, so much so that she participates in competitions - when she can fit them into her schedule.

[I differentiate body builder from body sculptor because a body builder is someone who deliberately tries to create humongous muscle mass that just looks grotesque, IMHO, and a body sculptor is someone who sculpts their body into smooth, powerful, normal looking lines.)

Makes for interesting reading, for anyone who is a few pounds overweight and more who wants to know what it takes to lose that weight, and sculpt that body.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Aviation Museum in Amarillo, Texas?

Reading the website of - came across an editorial asking for serious discussion of an aviation museum.

I take the liberty of reproducing it here:

An exhibit saluting an important part of the Panhandle's history just might be ready to take wing.

It would be an aviation museum dedicated to honoring the Age of Flight and the role it has played in the development of the Texas Panhandle.

It's the brainchild of the Texas Air & Space Museum board, veterans of the English Field Air & Space Museum that used to occupy space adjacent to what would become Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The discussion has begun and it should continue.

Think of what aviation has brought to this region.

Amarillo was home to a Strategic Air Command base until the late 1960s. Its closure and the hard feelings it produced - not to mention the devastating impact it had on our economy - remain topics of water-cooler discussion to this day.

Bell Helicopter had a huge assembly plant nearby before closing after the end of the Vietnam War; Bell has returned in a big way with its V-22 Osprey and helicopter assemby operation next to AMA.

Amarillo is home to two shuttle astronauts, the late Rick Husband and Paul Lockhart; in addition, Wheeler is the birthplace of Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon as a member of the Apollo 12 lunar-landing mission, and who also flew aboard Skylab on a long-term earth-orbit mission in the 1970s.

Florene Miller Watson of Borger was one of the pioneering female aviators during World War II.

This region has plenty of museum expertise upon which organizers can draw. The American Quarter Horse and the Panhandle-Plains Historical museums both attract thousands of visitors annually. It wouldn't hurt one bit to ask those folks: How do you do it?

An aviation museum - at a highly visible site - is a good fit for Amarillo.

Let us proceed.

Who was Florene Miller Watson?

From the WASP Page dedicated to her:

Florene Miller Watson was born on December 7, 1920, in San Angelo, Texas. She became fascinated with planes at age 8 and by age 19 had finished flight school and completed her first solo flight.

Watson received her instructor's rating and was teaching men to fly in the War Training Program in Odessa and Lubbock, Texas when WWII began. Watson turned 21 on December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and soon afterward she and her younger brother volunteered for Army service.

The Army was searching for 50 women with 500 hours of flying time to become aircraft, cargo and troop ferriers. This was double the standard for men who only needed 250 hours to qualify to be Army pilots. Watson was one of only 25 who qualified for the original Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later known as the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). These women averaged 1,100 hours flying time. In January, 1943, she was made Commanding Officer over the WASPs stationed at Love Field, Dallas, Texas. Watson also served as a test pilot, and in 1944 tested radar equipment before its general use in the war. By the time the war was over, Watson had flown every kind of aircraft used by the Air Corp.

Considered civilians by the military, though the women held officer status, the women were held to higher qualifying standards than men, and operated under extreme pressure to succeed. Some 1,000 women pilots were trained by the military for service in the Ferrying Division, and 38 women were killed during their service to the war. It took 33 years for the women pilots of World War II to be militarized, and in September 1992, Watson traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive an award recognizing the Women's Airforce Service Pilots. She was the National Chaplain for many years of the WASPs WWII.

After the War, Watson earned her Master's Degree in Business Administration and taught college for 30 years before retiring. Married for over 50 years, Florene and Chris Watson have two daughters and four grandchildren and continue to live in Borger, Texas. Chris Watson was a member of the "Oil Patch Warriors," an American oil drilling crew that drilled for oil for Great Britain in Sherwood Forest during WWII. In one year they drilled 94 producing wells, increasing Great Britian's oil production by more than 3,000 barrels a day.

Florene continues to serve in her church and community. She maintains close ties to aviation with memberships in the Texas Aviation Historical Society, the Ninety-Nines, the Commemorative Air Force (Confederate), the Women's Military Aviators and the Women's Airforce Service Pilots WWII.

She has been featured in a number of magazines and books with photos and write-ups. A number of television interviews, programs on aviation, plus video and audio histories to be used by universities and college archives departments as well as aviation museums. She was also featured in the nationally-broadcasted TV documentary Women of Courage explaining the role of women pilots of WWII---The Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Watson has been honored with Distinguished Flying Corps Membership in the Kritser Aviation and Space Museum, Amarillo, Texas, in 1988. Watson was also inducted into the Ninety-Nines International Forest of Friendship, Atchison, Kansas, (Amelia Earhart's Home) for exceptional contributions to aviation, 1995. She was a speaker at the Experimental Aircraft Association's Museum at the 1995 Oshkosh, Wisconsin, International Air Show. Watson was the first woman to be inducted into the Panhandle Veterans Hall of Fame, August 1996. Watson was also honored in a special way as a "Distinguished Veteran" at the Air Force Military Ball and accompanying activities in Dallas, Texas, March 14-15, 1997.

As Chaplain of the WASP organization, she was on the program with Attorney General Janet Reno to dedicate a bronze statue representing the WASP that was placed in the Honor Court of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 19, 1997. Watson was a special guest of General Paul Tibbets who was honored by the Confederate Air Force in Midland, Texas, October 2-5, 1997. General Tibbets was in charge of the atom bomb project of WWII and flew the B-29 Inola Gay to drop the first bomb on Japan, thus ending WWII. Watson attended the 3-day dedication ceremonies for the Women's Military Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., October 16-17, 1997. She was also a guest of General Paul Tibbets and his three Enola Gay crew members at the Iwo Jima Reunion in Wichita Falls, Texas, February 20-25, 1998. Note: The bombardier on the Enola Gay, Major Thomas W. Ferebee, was stationed at Ardmore Army Air Field from June through September 1944 before transferring to Wendover Field, Utah and becoming part of the Enola Gay crew. The "Bock's Car" bombardier, Captain Kermit K. Beahan, was also stationed at Ardmore, 1943-44.

Watson was invited to be a member of the Gathering of Eagles organization of distinguished aviation pioneers in June 2001. This elite program was organized in 1982. The 2001 program, the 20th Gathering of Eagles, was titled "Legends and Leaders of Aerospace" and honored 16 civilian and military aviation leaders. Florene was also recognized for her achievements at the 2002, 2003 and 2005 "gatherings."

Another recognition for Watson was the bestowing of the Medal of Honor from the national society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). This honor is bestowed on worthy recipients known "to have done something outstanding" to show their commitment to God, Home and Country. The medal was presented December 9, 2001 in her hometown, Borger, Texas. The Borger "Josiah Bartlett Chapter" of the DAR sponsored Watson.

In addition, the Air Force Association's, Lifetime Achievement Award, its highest honor, was also presented to Watson. Reagan County, Texas, where she grew up, renamed its airport in her honor and the International Women in Aviation inducted Florene to its prestigious Pioneer Hall of Fame.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

66-year old Val Paget sets soaring record

Heights glider pilot wings her way into the record books
(from Houston and Texas News)

For as long as she can remember, Val Paget has reached for the sky and felt at home there. She got her first taste while climbing a 14,000-foot mountain with her father at age 3.

Yet today the 66-year-old retired English teacher living in the Heights is pushing herself beyond any mountain summit.

That's why she became a sky sailor of sorts, eventually flying to a place where no woman has gone before. The flight that drew worldwide attention was when she navigated her glider about 269 miles on one trip — the first woman to go that far while making three turns in a PW-5 glider.

Her sleek, motorless glider with the 45-foot wingspan made that seven-hour journey powered only by the air beneath its wings. It mimics the flight of circling hawks or buzzards that often like to fly on her wing tips.

Paget's record flight on Aug. 8 was validated recently by the Federation Aeronautique International in Paris, which has recognized aviators such as Charles Lindbergh. Then Paget's aerial exploit was honored just a few weeks ago at the Soaring Society of America's national convention in Little Rock, Ark.

Nature's power
She said she could have pinched herself as she watched the realization of her dream.

“Soaring gets you in tune with nature and the enormous power of it,” she said. “Like the movie Titanic you get this feeling that you can rule the world.”

As a young girl, whenever she climbed to the pinnacle of a mountain like Pikes Peak in Colorado with her father, she always imagined flying off into the sky.

She knew there had to be an easier way to view mountaintops than making grueling climbs in severe weather.

So when the youngest of her two daughters left home for college, she took the flying lessons that she had always wanted.

The then-47-year-old was still teaching English at Spring High School. But while she loved reading, she wasn't a typical bookworm who enjoyed sitting on the sidelines. She craved adventure.

So Paget felt hopeful on that August morning when she climbed inside the cramped cockpit, which is about the size of a go-kart, to attempt the world record.

2,000 feet up
After being towed on a rope by a plane to an altitude of 2,000 feet, she was cut loose and sailed into the blue sky. From that instant, she had to artfully maneuver the stick and rudder with her hands and feet to catch “lifts” from columns of warm air.

“If you just lean a little, you can alter your course,” she explained. “It's like using your knees to guide a horse.”

Sustaining such a long trip for so many hours requires a lot of expertise, said her husband, Glenn Giddens, a retired control systems engineer and glider instructor. And this trip would have some daunting moments.

First, she almost aborted when she spotted an ominous thunderstorm. Another glider pilot, who had been flying at her side, had already retreated to the grassy landing field near Waller where they had started.

Paget knew those dark clouds could suck out all the thermal power needed for soaring. But the storm line appeared to stop moving a few miles before reaching her. “It looked frozen. So I decided to keep going,” she said.

It was a good decision as she soared along her course, making her three turns near Madisonville, Wallis and Bryan. But on the last leg, she headed into a strong, 20-knot headwind that cut her speed from 65 miles per hour to 25.

“I radioed that I may not make it back,” she said, believing she might be forced to make an emergency landing.

Her husband recalled how she had once landed on the city dump in Killeen after she couldn't get around Fort Hood's restricted airspace.

Now the sun was lower in the sky, which meant she also had fewer thermal lifts. Her craft started dropping closer and closer to the patchwork landscape underneath her.

But the glider never slipped lower than 1,400 feet before returning to the starting point at Waller.

Setting that record, she said, wasn't nearly as difficult as the average day she spent in a classroom for 29 years.

But the trip had its own challenges, lasting seven hours with no rest stops or bathroom facilities on board.

How did she handle it?

“Depends,” she said.

If you'd like to fly but find the cost of aviation lessons prohibitive, consider learning how to fly a glider. It's a lot less expensive, and you learn a lot of the same material that you'll eventually need to know if you become a powered-craft pilot. So it's all good.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maj. Gen. Jessica Wright Honored with Founders Day award

I take the liberty of repeating the complete article, brief as it is, below:

By BARBARA MILLER, The Patriot-News
January 29, 2010, 2:58PM
For the first time, Lebanon Valley College will honor a member of the military with its annual Founders Day award. Maj. Gen. Jessica L. Wright, commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard based at Fort Indiantown Gap, will receive the award at 11 a.m. Feb. 16 in Miller Chapel.

Wright is responsible for the Pennsylvania’s 19,000 Air and Army National Guard personnel, six state-owned veterans’ homes and programs for the state’s 1.1 million veterans. She was the Army National Guard’s first female aviator, the first woman in the Army to be appointed as a maneuver brigade commander, and in 2005, became Pennsylvania’s first female adjutant general.

By honoring her, the college said it is also recognizing and thanking all members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. The award recognizes individuals whose character and leadership contribute to the enhancement of life in central Pennsylvania.

LVC to honor Maj. Gen. Jessica Wright with Founders Day award

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Amelia Earhart portrayed in graphic novel: "This Broad Ocean"

Here's the link to the story:
Earhart flies again, graphically speaking

MONTPELIER – When Sarah Stewart Taylor was asked to choose a woman to profile for the latest graphic novel by Vermont's cartoon college, there was easily one name that quickly rose to the top of the list.

"I've always been fascinated by Amelia Earhart," said Taylor, a fiction novelist from Hartford. "Her disappearance in 1937 really appealed to me, partly because I am a mystery writer."

But for Taylor's first graphic novel, "Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean," which was produced by the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction and features art by North Carolina's Ben Towle, she instead focuses on an earlier flight by the aviation legend: The June 1928 flight across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Wales.

That 20-hour flight made her the first female passenger (the plane was flown by pilot Wilmer Stultz) to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Taylor said her first instinct was to focus on the 1937 flight that ended in Earhart's disappearance, but in her research about the woman she was continually drawn to the drama of the 1928 flight.

The 78-page graphic novel begins and ends in the tiny fishing village that Earhart lands in to refuel before the Atlantic trip. Weather and other problems left her and her pilot stranded in the village for two weeks. Meanwhile, several other female pilots also begin eyeing the prize of being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.

Read the complete article at the link above.

And purchase the book for your daughter's birthday, unbirthday, graduation present, or what have you:

Soar Elinor: Children's biography of Elinor Smith

Was surfing the web yesterday and came across the news that author Tami Lewis Brown (author of books for teens such as ONE SHINY SILVER KEY), has also written her first picture book, called Soar Elinor, which tells the story of Elinor Smith.

Tami Lewis Brown is also a pilot. You fly, girl!

Annoyingly, this website is frame-driven, so I can't link to the page where she talks about the book, Soar Elinor, nor can I link to the page where she comments that actress Mia Wasikowska plays Elinor Smith in the recent biopic of Amelia Earhart, called Amelia. (Amelia and Elinor did not get along...or at least, Elinor didn't care for Amelia, thinking herself the much better pilot, but with no wealthy husband to bring her publicity.)

Eleanor Smith, left and Bobbi Trout at Van Nuys Airport, around 1929.

For more photos of Van Nuys Airport history, see

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tiny Red Swastikas on a Plane Do Not = Nazi!

The headline of the article was written to shock and outrage.

Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue pairs bikinis with swastikas

But it's much ado about nothing.

Sports Illustrated took photos for their swimsuit issue of some model standing next to a WWII era plane, that had Nazi stickers on it. The nose-art was of a woman in a silver bikini, the model is standing in front of the plane, it's actually a pretty cool juxtaposition.

Now, anyone older than 20 has got to know that when American pilots (and British pilots too, presumably) shot down a German plane, they'd put a little swastika on the plane to count the kill. And red balls on white backgrounds for Japanese kills.

Yet the reaction to the photo, if this article (link above) is to be believed, is that people are claiming that the photo is "pro-Nazi", that it was in bad taste,
and they wonder why the model couldn't have been posed so that she covered up the swastikas. Here's a clue, guys. The viewer knows it's a WWII-era plane because of those stickers!

For anyone to have a hissy fit at this is just ridiculous, and shows that political correctness has gone over the madness horizon and is accelerating.

All Female Air-Crews

Up until the 1900s, women weren't allowed to do much of anything for fear they'd get the vapors. Of course this was ensured because of fashion, where they'd wear whale-bone corset so tight that they could barely breathe, which is why once they made it upstairs they'd have to lie on a fainting couch for a while to get their breath (as made famous in The Pirates of the Caribbean and Lady Elizabeth Swan, eh?)

Then there came advice that women did need to be phsyically active. But they mustn't run or it would harm their reproductive organs and prevent them from fulfilling their primary purpose which was to have babies. SO the game of six-woman basketball developed, where there'd be three players in the front court for offense, and three players in the back court for defense. I think this version of the game wasn't phased out until the 1960s.

Women wanted to get into the marathon, but were refused for the same reason.

But, women persevered (against both the male establishment and the female establishment of the time as well!) and in 1910 in France, Raymonde de Laroche earned her pilot's license. During WWII, the WASP flew planes every day for a year and more...and no one worried about their periods!

Which is why I was rather shocked to find that as late as 1999, crew schedulers didn't want to assign all women-crews, even when it happened "naturallY", for fear that one of the woman might be having her "time of the month" and go berserk on the plane, apparently.

I found this page when I was searchign for something else.

It has come to my attention that one of the C-130 flying units had an interesting decision recently. As the schedulers of the different departments sent names to the central scheduler, it became apparent that a particular mission was to be flown by a crew of women. All five crew positions would have been female. The commander chose to not authorize this roster, and requested that a male replace one of the women. His rationale, as I am told, is that had the crew become involved in a "mishap", the investigation might have asked him why he authorized an "all-female" crew, even though each were current and qualified in their respective positions.

This begs me to ask, are any other flying organizations concerned about an "all-female" flight crew? Does this ever happen, without any intrepedation?

Has there been any research into the "effectiveness and efficiency" of an all-female crew, compared to the traditional all-male, compared to a mixed-gender crew?

The answers make for intersting reading. Check them out here:

Even today, women and minorities have yet to have achieved full equality in the minds of the populace for one reason. If a male pilot crashes a plane, it's "Ah, too bad, he must have been a bad pilot." But if a woman, or a black or other minority crashes the plane, it's "Ah, this proves women (or blacks) can't fly.

I'm reminded of the reaction of Danica Patrick's crash in the race a couple of days ago. Comments on CBSSportline were all about, "See, this proves women shouldn't be race car drivers!" I just wanted to slap those neanderthals!

(Having said that, I'm not too thrilled with Patrick and her sexist commericals for GoDaddy, but that's a rant for another time.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Search For Gertrude Tompkins: The Missing WASP

I posted about this a few weeks ago. One day in 1944, Gertrude Tompkins took off from Los Angeles in a P-51 Mustang, and was never seen or heard from again. It is assumed that she crashed within seconds of takeoff, into the waters of the coast.

Military Mag published a brief article by Captain Mark “Sharky” Alexander, on his search for the plane and its pilot.

At 215 bone-crushing feet below the surface of Santa Monica Bay, CA, the visibility was surprisingly good — about 35 feet. As I drifted down the marker line, I could see below me the shadowy outline of jagged metal protruding from the muddy bottom. Was it the World War II P-51-D Mustang we were searching for? I reached down and grabbed a piece of wreckage. It was thin plastic with tiny writing on it — it looked like part of the dashboard of a plane, but perhaps not a Mustang.

History lesson

What was I doing there in 2009, risking life and limb in a search for history? It all started on 26 October 1944, long before I was born, when an attractive ferrying pilot named Gertrude Tompkins took off from what is now Los Angeles International Airport. She was a member of the elite Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She flew into an offshore fogbank and was never seen again.

Read the complete article at the link above.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

286 WASP Survive, of 1100 Who Served

According to Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) there are 286 surviving WASP. (1100 served, 36 were killed in the line of duty, one committed suicide on the one year anniversary of the WASP being disbanded.)

An informal survey showed about 100 (each in their 80s or 90s) are planning on making the trip to Washington DC to attend the ceremony on March 10, where:

The group will be belatedly honored in the Rotunda in the U.S. Capitol on March 10. President Obama signed a bill last July that collectively awarded all 1,100 WASP, alive and deceased, the Congressional Gold Medal.

It's the highest civilian honor that the government can bestow on an individual or group. George Washington was the first recipient and only 146 more have been given since then. The diverse list includes Mother Teresa and Walt Disney, Arnold Palmer and Dr. Louis Salk, Nelson Mandela and Harry Chapin.

The U.S. Mint is making one Gold Medal that will be revealed at the March ceremony and then donated to the Smithsonian Institution for permanent display. Bronze medal replicas will be given to each WASP survivor, all of them in their 80s and 90s, or to a designated relative.

Yesterday I shared the link where people can donate, if they choose, to help defray the expenses of these women and/or a family member to go to Washington DC to accept this long-overdue medal.

It's a tough time out there - with people losing their jobs, or afraid of losing their jobs, and worry about what the goverment is going to do to us next...but it's a worthy if you've got any discretionary funds, consider donating. I gave $25 (which is the minimum increment they ask for.)

Indeed, there are a lot of aviation-themed projects that need our help, from the WASP to the Tuskegee Airmen. Let's get together as an aviation community and keep their memories alive!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Medal Ceremony For Surviving WASP To Be Held March 10 in DC

As a subscriber to the International Women's Air And Space Museum email newsletter, I recieved this news in the email yesterday:

As you are probably aware, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) are scheduled to receive the Congressional Gold Medal on March 10, 2010 in Washington, DC. We are pleased to pass along this request from Nicole Malachowski for support of this event and ask you to consider making a donation at

"Please help 'HONOR THE WASP' by supporting this Congressional Gold Medal Celebration with your tax deductible donation. 100% of the funds raised will be used for the cost of the WASP individual medals, the costs of meals, transportation and other logistical support. Your help will go a long way toward making this event successful."

We will take any donation, from any individuals or organizations/corporations. Any and all help is appreciated. Also, please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in helping these heroines of America's Greatest Generation. There is a sense of urgency to this, as we've only got 30 days to plan this very large event. Thank you for your consideration. As always, I'm grateful for any support you can provide me in this effort to honor our WASP!


Nicole "FiFi" Malachowski
[Malachowski was the first woman pilot in the USAF Thunderbirds]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Two Active-Duty Air Force Colonels To Receive NAA Stinson Award

The National Aeronautics Association (NAA) has selected Lieutenant Colonel Jean E. Havens, USAF, and Lieutenant Colonel Jeannie Leavitt, USAF, to receive the 2009 Katherine and Marjorie Stinson Award.

"With the largest group of nominees in memory for this great award, it was a unanimous decision of the Selection Committee to present two awards this year," noted NAA President Jonathan Gaffney. "We have two very worthy winners and we are extremely proud of them."

The Stinson Award was created in 1997 by the National Aviation Club (now part of NAA) to honor the accomplishments of two sisters - Katherine and Marjorie Stinson. These sisters were among the first 11 American women to be certified as airplane pilots through the Aero Club of America (the predecessor of NAA). Their flying school helped numerous U.S. and international pilots earn their Aero Club licenses, the precursor to Federal Aviation Administration pilot certificates. The award recognizes a living woman for an outstanding and enduring contribution, a meritorious flight, or a singular technical development in the field of aviation, aeronautics, space, or related sciences.

In 1993, Leavitt blazed a path as America's first female fighter pilot. She rose to the position of squadron commander, training tomorrow's warriors, and has paved the way for women in military flight through groundbreaking achievements during her remarkable and continuing Air Force career.

Havens' enduring contributions during her 18-year Air Force career began in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. After she earned her pilot's certificate, she began flying F-16s. One of only a few female instructor pilots, she made significant impacts in training. Her duties as an air adviser helping to rebuild and revitalize the Iraqi Air Force from 2006-2009 demonstrated her outstanding leadership capabilities.

In a new partnership, NAA will award the Stinson Trophy at the Pioneer Hall of Fame Banquet at the International Women in Aviation Annual Conference to be held at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida, on February 27, 2010.

Previous Stinson Award Winners:

Captain Julie Clark

Evelyn Bryan Johnson

Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann

Carol Rymer Davis

Ann Baumgartner Carl

Mary S. Feik
Ann Wood-Kelly

Capt. Beverley Bass
Patty Wagstaff

Capt. Jodi A. Neff, USAF

Jeana Yeager

Audrey Poberezny

Major Susan Rose, USAF

Dr. Shannon Lucide, Astronaut

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Ladybirds

Here's some more brief entries on women pilots from Ladybirds: The Untold Story of Women Pilots in America.

A Whirly-Girl (helicopter pilot), K. C. Nichols, made it possible for women to fly stunt doubles in parts that had women pilot characters. Her lobbying efforts with the Screen Actors Guild helped eliminate the "man pilot in the wig" role.

Kay Bowman wanted to learn to fly helicopters but needed a job to pay for her lessons. When Kay heard that Jane Fonda needed a cook for her health spa, Kay applied. Instead of sending a resume, she preparewd a whole meal. Her inventiveness landed her the job....she went on to earn a Whirly-Girl scholarship, and now has her flight instructor's rating.

It was 5 am December 29, 1986 and American Airlines Flight 417, a Boeing 727, had just cleared for takeoff. Captain Bass pointed the nose of the jet into the wind, and began the takeoff roll. There was nothing unusual about the takeoff roll or the airplane lifting into the pre-dawn sky, but there was something different about this flight. Captain Beverly Bass (American Airline's first female captain, and at the age of 35 also their youngest) First Officer Theresa Claridge and Flight Engineer Tracy Prior were making history for American Airlines as their first all-female cockpit crew.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Average Whirly-Girl

I'm reading Ladybirds: The Untold Story of Women Pilots in America, by Henry M. Holden with Captain Lori Griffith. It was first published in 1991.

It's an interesting book, that is running through the list of women pilots. It gives a page or two for the most famous pilots, down to a single paragraph for others. For all this brevity, it is interesting, and thanks to the evolution of technology, now, 15 years later, it's easy to do further research on each of these pilots and learn more about them.

But what struck my eye when I got to the chapter on the Whirly-Girls (helicopter pilots, as opposed to fixed-wing aircraft pilots) was this:

In 1988, Whirly-Girl Enid C. Kasper did a scientific survey of women helicopter pilots - the first that any organization had ever done. Kasper's results showed that:

Average age: 42
Married: 42%
White: 92% [author Holden uses the term Anglo, but I presume he means white]
College graduates: 41%
Master's Degree: 20%
First-born child: 47%
Age for 1st pilot's license: Between 17 and 27
Helicopter rating earned after the age of 40: 7%

Discpline helped them in other areas of their lives: 53%
Wanting to fly because of a profound interest: 47%
Flying because of the challenging environment: 21%

Encounter sexism on occasion: 46%
Encounter sexism often: 20%
Non-flying Men friends who found their work intimidating: 17%
Non-flying male friends supportive and fascinated: 78%

Have fear of heights otherwise: 50%
Positive self-image: 49%

Holden doesn't give the details of this survey - how many women participated. That is something I would dearly love to know. Are these answers representative of 40 women, or 400? In 1991, there were not all that many women helicopter pilots, and of any group surveyed (depending on how its done) only 10%, or even less, ever take the survey.

So without knowing how many women took the survey, I find the conclusions to be only "guidelies" rather than truly instructive, but that statistic, only 49% of women helicopter pilots have a positive self image, very depressing.

Because of course that is representative of women over-all. Most women, no matter how beatiful they are, are always obsessed about their appearance and don't think they look good. What's the percentage of boyfriends or husbands, for example, who have been asked the question, "Does this make me look fat?" [Truth to tell, I can't imagine a woman ever asking her boyfriend or hubby that, but it's a cliche so I guess it must happen a lot].

Monday, February 8, 2010

Before Raymonde de Laroche

Why this title?

A very valuable book in the history of women aviation pioneers is called Before Amelia. This title irritates a few people, as Amelia Earhart wasn't the first or even necessarily the best woman pilot, she is just the most famous. (That's not a dig at Earhart, I'm just stating the facts. While Earhart was concentrating on her long distance flights, other women were out doing other things, but none of them received her press. And of course, none of them disappeared in the Pacific Ocean.)

But for the average reader today, the title does work. If it was called Before Louise, it wouldn't be clearly a book on aviation, for all that Louise Thaden was one of the brightest stars in the women pilots firmament. But call it Before Amelia, and practically everyone can extrapolate what it's about!

So that's where the title of this blog entry comes from. "Before Raymonde de Laroche." She did not appear out of whole cloth. There were many women before her who liked to do adventurous things and did them, despite the fact that in so doing they a) risked their lives and b) scandalized polite society.

1784 - Elisabeth Thible becomes the first woman to fly - in a hot air balloon

1798 - Jeanne Labrosse is the first woman to solo in a balloon

1809 - Marie Madeleine Sopie Blanchard becomes the first woman to lose her life while flying - she was watching fireworks in her hydrogen balloon

1880 - July 4 - Mary Myers is the first American woman to solo in a balloon

1903 - Aida de Acosta is the first woman to solo in a dirigible

1906 - E. Lillian Todd is the first woman to design and build an airplane, though it never flew

1908 - Madame Therese Peltier is the first woman to fly an airplane solo (according to some reports).

(From's Women in Aviation section.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Raymonde le Laroche - first woman pilot

Raymonde de Laroche (August 22, 1886 - July 18, 1919), born Elise Raymonde Deroche, was a French aviatrix and the first woman to receive a pilot's licence.

She was the daughter of a plumber. As a young woman, she became an actress, using the stage name "Raymonde de Laroche". (She has frequently been referred to as a Baroness, but this is an erroneous title bestowed upon her by Flight magazine.)

She had a son, André, whose father was reportedly the artist-turned aviator Léon Delagrange.

In October 1909, aviator Charles Voisin suggested she could learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft, after having seen her piloting a hot air balloon.

On October 22, 1909, she flew 300 yards at Chalons, (located 90 miles east of Paris), where the Voisin brothers had their aviation school. Her flight is often cited as the first by a woman in a powered heavier-than-air craft. (This claim has been disputed. Some experts say Thérèse Peltier had flown in 1908.)

Author Eileen Lebow writes: "At the Voisin camp at Chalons, M. Chateau, a company engineer responsible for training new pilots, took Laroche in charge, supervised by Charles Voisin, who was already captivated by her charms . . . Her first attempts showed aptitude: She could drive the machine across the field in a straight line, have it turned by a mechanic, and bring it back to where she started. From that beginning, she progressed to making short hops. On her first try, she revved up the fifty-horsepower motor and taxied across the field, turned into the wind, and with full power raced back across the field. Suddenly her wheels left the ground, and she continued in the air for three hundred meters before gently settling down. There were loud cheers from the ground crew, and M. Chateau nodded approvingly to his pupil . . ."[ Before Amelia ]

On March 8, 1910, de Laroche became the first woman in the world to receive a pilot's licence when the Aero-Club of France issued her license #36 of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (International Aeronautics Federation or F.A.I.). This means she was the 36th person in the world to receive a license.

In July 1910 she participated in the week-long airshow at Reims. On July 8, she crashed and suffered such severe injuries that her recovery was in doubt. Two years later she was fit again and had returned to flying. On September 26 , 1912 she was injured in the automobile accident in which Charles Voisin was killed.

On November 25, 1913 de Laroche won the Aero-Club of France's Femina Cup for a non-stop long-distance flight of over 4 hours duration.

During World War I, women were not allowed to fly, so she served as a military driver, chauffeuring officers from the rear zones to the front under fire.

In June 1919 she set two women's altitude records, one at 15,700 feet; and also the women's distance record, at 201 miles.

Raymonde de Laroche intended to become the first professoinal woman test pilot. On July 18, 1919 she went to the airfield at Le Crotoy, to co-pilot an experimental aircraft, a Caudron. On its landing approach, the plane went into a dive and crashed killing both the pilot and de Laroche.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Women Set To Seek A World's Record on March 8 - Be Part Of It

A couple of days ago I shared a link to the website,, and their mission statement, but I didn't really make it clear what the stakes are, so I thought I'd repost it and focus specifically on what they're trying to do.

From March 8, 2010 (that's the 100th anniversary of Baroness Raymonde de Laroche earning her pilot's license) to March 12, women pilots in almost every state will be flying female passengers - girls who want to fly, in an effort to set a few world records:

Most women introduced to aviation in one location on March 8
Most women introduced to aviation in one location from March 6 to March 12
Most unusual introduction flight (criteria include type of aircraft, location or destination, pilot or passenger uniqueness)
To qualify, participants must post an announcement describing the
planned event or flight in the "Advertise Your Event" section of the
Forums (at the Centenniel of Women Pilot's site) before March 1st.

So any woman pilot reading this blog, who hasn't yet heard of this program, check it out now! Let's introduce aviation to today's girls, and give them flight plans instead of fairy tales!

As an aside, don't forget to check out my comic strip, The Lady and the Tiger. By the time the first story-arc ends, my heroine, Shannon Scott, will actually be meeting Raymonde de Laroche (in a Twilight Zone inspired moment).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Another Reason To Go To Florida: Women in Aviation Conference

From their website:

February 25-27, 2010
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
Lake Buena Vista, FL (Near Orlando)

Join us at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL, for our 21st Annual Conference.

With the theme of "Aviation - It's a Small World," participants in the 2010 WAI Conference will be immersed in the tactics and strategies necessary for successful aviation careers. More than 3,000 women and men from all segments of the aviation industry are expected to attend.

This just in! The 2010 Conference is approved as training for FAA employees. Managers may approve attendance and funding for the entire Conference. As with all training, approval is at the manager’s discretion and subject to operational demands, organizational priorities, and resource availability.

For more information about the Conference, contact WAI at 3647 State Route 503 South, West Alexandria, OH 45381, Phone (937) 839-4647. Hope to see you there!

Centennial of Women Pilots

Found a new website devoted to women pilots.

I take the liberty of sharing their mission statement below.

About the Centennial of Licensed Women Pilots Event
On March 8, 1910, Raymonde De Laroche (1886 – 1919), an experienced French balloonist, was the first woman to earn a pilot license worldwide. She was the first but certainly not the last (click here for more). One century later, the woman pilot population has grown tremendously and women pilots are making breakthroughs each and every day (click here for more).

However, women pilots still represent less than 7% of the total pilot population in most countries. One of the challenges for the next century is to encourage more women to become a pilot. Nothing can inspire a woman to learn to fly more than meeting a woman who became a pilot.

To celebrate the Centennial of Licensed Women Pilots and Women’s Day, women pilots from around the world will attempt to set a new worldwide flying record: the most women pilots introducing a woman to flying in one single day, March 8, and in one single week, March 6 to March 12.

Help establish a world record, take a woman on a short flight to introduce her to the joys of flying.

To become an official woman pilot participant, you must:

Be a woman
Hold at least a private pilot license
Be current for the carriage of passengers per the requirements of the country in which your pilot license was issued
Use an aircraft carrying appropriate passenger liability insurance

Register as a participant in this website (click here to register for free)
Locate potential women passengers, not holding a pilot license, willing to go on a flight with you on March 8 2010 or anytime from March 6 to March 12 2010

Organize and conduct the flight in VFR weather while respecting all applicable regulations
Send us a photo of you and your passenger along with a proof of the date of the flight to be recognized as a official world record participant and receive your certificate of participation

When you become an official participant by registering, you will gain access to promotional materials to help you organize the event at your airport and become part of a group of proactive women pilots that will shares ideas with you and give you support. As an option, you can upgrade to a Premium Participant membership for just $30 USD. The Premium Participant membership option will give you the opportunity to create your own group web page and blog to communicate with your friends and volunteers, to create photo galleries, to create and maintain a personal blog, and receive the pure silk official Centennial of Women Pilots Aviatrix Scarf. Portions of the Premium Participant proceeds will be donated to women pilots scholarships.

As a woman pilot, you have already proven that you like to take on challenges. On March 8 2010 or anytime from March 6 to March 12 2010, stand up and be counted. Let the world know that women fly and will continue to fly for centuries to come. Introduce the next generation of women pilots to aviation. To get started, register today for free.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"A Pilot's Story" & "The Aviators" Joint Venture

I am on the mailing list for Wilco Films, who are producing the documentary A Pilot's Story. I got their latest newsblast in my email, and I don't think they'll mind if I share it here.

The producers of a couple of aviation projects - the TV show 'The Aviators' and the film 'A Pilot's Story' recently announced a production joint venture. Wilco Films, the producer of the upcoming aviation documentary will provide footage and content to FourPoints Television productions, the producers of the weekly TV series 'The Aviators' in the upcoming season one of the show.

Anthony Nalli, Executive Producer of 'The Aviators' said "The fusion of the creative strengths of both production teams will serve to make The Aviators even more captivating... A literally awesome television experience for our viewers who are passionate about aviation."

Rico Sharqawi, Executive Producer & Will Hawkins Director of 'A Pilot's Story' said "We are thrilled about this joint venture. Our goals are similar and that is to introduce aviation to every household and attract more people to flying. The number of licensed pilots is decreasing and we hope to reverse that by producing compelling and inspirational TV and video content."

About 'The Aviators': 'The Aviators' is a new weekly TV series which will premiere across North America this fall. The show will be distributed to all 320 Public Broadcasting Stations across the United States, will air on network television in Canada, and will be distributed throughout Europe and Asia. The series was created by aviation television veteran John Lovelace, creator and 10-year host of 'Wings Over Canada.'
On facebook at:

To watch trailers of "A Pilot's Story", please visit:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

German fighter escorts crippled B-17 toward safety

Just received this story in my email today, so I expect it makes the rounds of the internet regularly...but thought I'd share it here, anyway.

Look carefully at the B-17 and note how shot up it is - one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer and nose shot up.. It was ready to fall out of the sky. (This is a painting done by an artist from the description of both pilots many years later.) Then realize that there is a German ME-109 fighter flying next to it.

Charlie Brown (real name)was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called 'Ye Old Pub' and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

After flying the B-17 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he 'had never seen a plane in such a bad state'. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere.

Despite his orders, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to, and slightly over, the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe. When Franz landed he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told all at their briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.

They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 5 people who are alive now - all because Franz never fired his guns that day.

When asked why he didn’t shoot them down, Stigler later said, “I didn’t have the heart to finish those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute.”

Both men died in 2008.

Jerrie Cobb

There are a couple sites on the web that are article banks, like Helium and EzineArticles. Their only qualification to get something published is that an article be over a certain word-length. So I always review such articles with large grains of salt - typically they are very poorly written, and poorly reasoned as well - although of course there are exceptions. (I contributed a few articles to both these places, for example, before deciding that it was pointless - I'd rather publish my articles on my own website!)

In any event, a woman has just published a brief (3 page) biography of Jerrie Cobb at Helium, and while it glosses over a few things (it claims she was "the first woman to pass NASA astronaut training" and that's not true - she, and the rest of the Mercury 13, were never in "astronaut training" -- they were taking the same physiological and psychological tests as the men, that's all -- and there, Cobb's test results did exceed those of the men), it is an excellent introduction to her.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Movie of Louise Thaden to be made (hopefully)

Variety has just released the news that a movie on the life of Louise Thaden is being planned.

Avid for aviatrix tale

Producers James Moll and Brian J. Terwilliger have optioned life rights of aviation pioneer Louise Thaden and are developing a feature about the all-female transcontinental air race of 1929.
Moll's production company, Allentown Prods., will produce and is aiming at a late 2010 start date.

The 1929 race involved 20 female pilots, including Thaden, Amelia Earhart and Pancho Barnes, flying for nine days from Santa Monica to Cleveland. The race was won by Thaden, who penned the 1938 book "High, Wide and Frightened."

Thaden's two children, Patricia Thaden Webb and William Thaden, will serve as consultants, along with the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots.

Moll produced and directed docu "Running the Sahara." Terwilliger produced and helmed aviation doc "One Six Right."

Hm...I wonder if they're looking for a scriptwriter...