Monday, April 18, 2011

High flying pilot keeps her feet on the ground

Doris Lockness

News from March 9, 2011
High flying pilot keeps her feet on the ground
Perhaps you’ve seen Doris Lockness driving her 1999 S-type Jaguar to the grocery store or maybe you’ve met her at the Senior Citizen Center in El Dorado Hills.

If you’re an aviation enthusiast, you may know that Doris used to be a WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots) in WWII delivering military aircraft from the factories to military bases nationwide, and a flight instructor.

At 101, Lockness lives independently, cooks her own food and does most of her housework.

Last year, on Feb. 2, a number of birthday parties were thrown for her. One of her parties was with her friend, Julie Cark who took her up in her T-28 plane.

The Blackhawk Helicopter Pilots at Mather Field gave her a tour through the chopper.

There she was awarded the California National Guard Honorable Order of St. Michael and also a wall plaque from G.E. Aviation for years of safety in aviation.

She also received the WASP Gold Medal from Wilma L. Vaught, President of the Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC. She is pictured here with these medals.

President Obama and Governor Schwarzenegger sent her letters congratulating her on her 100th birthday.

How did you get started in aviation?

I moved from Bryant, Penn., to Ohio and then to California in 1930 with my first husband.

Our home was close to a small airport in Wilmington. I used to see the planes fly over the house and knew that I wanted to fly.

I waited until all my kids were in school and began to pursue my dream. I rode my bicycle to the airport daily where I became a “Girl Friday” for a while doing odd jobs around the airport.

Eventually, I began taking flying lessons. They were $2.50 for a half hour. I did 10 hours before I could fly solo. On Sundays people would line up in their cars to see “that crazy woman fly.”

In 1939 I got my pilot’s license, logged over 10,000 miles, and flew my last plane at 89. At this time I sold my Vultee-Stinson warbird, the “Swamp Angel,” which had years and years of history behind it. I cried when I saw it go.

What aircrafts have you flown?

I have commercial licenses for land and sea planes, helicopters, hot air balloons, gliders, gyroplanes and single, twin and multi-engine planes. I’m partial though to helicopters. They’re the most difficult but the most fun to fly.

I was the 55th woman in the world to receive a helicopter rating in 1963 and became a Whirly Girl. I’ve owned a total of nine planes in my lifetime.

What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you?

I was in a motor cycle accident when I was 29. The injuries were pretty serious – broken pelvis and other internal injuries. I had to go to Palm Springs to recover.

It’s there where I met my second husband, Robert, who was an architect. He, unlike my first husband, really supported my love for flying and was a great part of my flying life. He also introduced me to his hobby which was sports cars.

Will you be writing a book about your experiences?

No. That takes too much time. However, information about me has been published in a number of books such as “Hovering” by Henry M. Holden, “Ladybirds II: The Continuing Story of American Women in Aviation” and “Women and Flight” by Carolyn Russo.

The latter is a Smithsonian Institution publication. When it was published, some of the women written about in the book were flown to the Smithsonian on an all-expense paid trip. It was wonderful.

What are some of your favorite songs?

I like songs from Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. I listen to politics a lot. I like to keep up with what’s going on in the world.

What are some of your favorite movies?

I like the old romantic movies and the ones with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe and Kathyn Hepburn in them.

What activities do you enjoy now?

I’m an honorary member of the Sacramento Jaguar Club and join them on trips to Daffodil Hill and Apple Hill.

Cars are my passion too. I go to the Cameron Park Show & Shine car show every year.

Occasionally I have lunch with the Amelia Earhart’s Ninety Nines. If the Senior Center has a good lunch, I’ll stop by there for a bite to eat. I’ll also go to some of the parties they have.

I’m a member of the Whirly Girl helicopter organization, the National Aeronautic Association and the OX 5 Pioneers.

What about your family?

My second husband passed away 10 years ago. He was nine years younger than me. I have three sons ages 81, 79 and 77 and a daughter who died of cancer. Together, they have 13 children and those children have about – I’ve lost track – 35 children and some of them have children of their own. Our family consists of five living generations.

What’s your secret to longevity?

I keep busy and active, don’t smoke and have an occasional glass of wine with dinner. I plan to go on until 105 because my doctor said he’d take me out for a steak and lobster dinner with wine when I reach that age. I can’t wait.

What dreams do you have?

I miss flying a lot – especially helicopters. I used to go to aviation conventions and air shows but can’t do that either.

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