Jane Kendeigh Flies In First

March 3, 1945 Flight nurse Ensign Jane “Candy” Kendeigh became the first nurse to fly to and from an active battlefield when she flew from Guam to Iwo Jima to evacuate wounded soldiers. Flight nurses were required to swim a mile, tow or push a victim for 220 yards, and swim 440 yards in 10 minutes. Kendeigh was also the Navy’s first flight nurse on Okinawa.

Fly On Ellen Evak Paneok

March 2, 2008 Ellen Evak Paneok, the first Native woman bush pilot, passed away. At age 16 Paneok used $1500 from the Native Corporation to learn to fly. During her career she flew more than 15,000 hours in the Alaskan bush, ferrying everything from dynamite to live wolverines to emergency medical patients. She was featured in the Smithsonian’s Women And Flight exhibit.

Jackie Cochran Takes The Prize

March 1, 1945 Jackie Cochran was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her work in World War II. As Director of Woman‘s Flying Training, along with Nancy Love Harkness she helped found the WASP – Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. Cochran was born Bessie Lee Pittman in an Alabama mill town. Cochran set out for the city, and after marrying milionaire Floyd Odlum she learned to fly, quickly racking up aviation records and firsts. She won the Bendix Cup and became the first woman to break the sound barrier and to fly a jet across the ocean.

Hooray for Maryse Bastie!

February 27, 1898 Maryse Bastie was born. Bastie came from a struggling family but by the 1920’s she had purchased her own plane and was performing in aerobatic shows to earn a living. By the 1930’s she had opened her own flight school and become a Captain in the French Air Force. She was awarded the Legion of Honor for military service.

Susan Jane Helms Flies High

February 26, 1958 Lt. Gen. Susan Jane Helms was born. Helms became an astronaut in 1991 and logged 5,064 hours in space. She holds the record for the longest spacewalk at 8 hours, 56 minutes. She returned to the Air Force in 2002 and is now the Commander of the 14th Air Force.

Molly Reilly The Flying Canadian

February 25, 1922 Molly Reilly, Canada’s first female charter airline captain, was born. When WWII broke out Reilly tried to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but was turned away. She became the Women’s Division’s first recruit in 1941.

Maude “Lores” Bonney Ascends

February 24, 1994 Record smashing aviatrix Maude “Lores” Bonney passed away at age 96. In 1933 Bonney flew solo from Brisbane, Australia to London, England. Bonney’s perilous flight took place a full year before Amelia Earhart claimed fame by crossing the Atlantic but, unlike Earhart, Bonney did not have a publicist and was more interested in aviation skill than celebrity. She was awarded an OBE by King George but today Lores Bonney’s achievements have been nearly forgotten.

Mabel Bell’s Practical Flying Aerodrome Lifts Off

February 23, 1909 Mabel Bell, wife of Alexander Graham Bell, funded the first airplane flight in Canada. On this date John McCurdy lifted off from Lake Bras d’Or, Nova Scotia, flying a Silver Dart sponsored by Mrs. Bell. Deaf since childhood, Mabel Bell was intensely interested in science and flight and had contributed over $35,000 of her own money to design and build “a practical flying aerodrome.”

First Place For Pancho Barnes

February 22, 1929 Californians Florence “Pancho” Barnes, Bobbi Trout, and Margaret Perry competed in the first women’s air race with Barnes coming out on top. This set the stage for the Women’s Transcontinental Air Race run that August from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio. Will Rogers dubbed it the “Powder Puff Derby”.

The Great Avenger

February 21, 1943 Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas became the world’s first all female air base. Eighteen classes of WASP- Women’s Airforce Service Pilots-trained at Avenger. Over 25,000 women applied to become WASP, 1,830 were accepted, and 1,074 received their wings, most at Avenger Field. Today the airport houses the National WASP World War II Museum.
The WASP were disbanded in December 1944 and sent home with no military benefits. In 1977 they were granted veteran status and in 2009 they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. President Obama said, “The Women Airforce Service Pilots courageously answered their country’s call in a time of need while blazing a trail for the brave women who have given and continue to give so much in service to this nation since. Every American should be grateful for their service.”