WASP Get Their Due

November 23, 1977 President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to grant veteran status to the women who served in the WASP. The Women’s Airforce Service Pilots was established during World War II to fly non-combat missions within the United States however they did not receive the same pay or benefits as male pilots. On July 1, 2009 President Barack Obama presented the WASP with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Let It Snow, Marlene Shillingford

November 22, 1992 Marlene Shillingford was appointed Crew Chief of the Snowbirds, the Canadian Air Force’s aerobatic team. Unlike the Thunderbirds’ or Blue Angels’ focus on power and speed, the Canadian team emphasizes precise formation flying.

Fly High Lyubov Golanchikova

November 21, 1912 Former Vaudeville dancer Lyubov Golanchikova set a women’s altitude record of 7218 feet in a Fokker Eindecker. Golanchikova became an overnight sensation and the German army adopted the Fokker as their military aircraft of choice.

Fly Away Bessie Coleman

November 20, 1920 After taking a French class from Berlitz, Bessie Coleman set sail for France to learn to fly because no American flight school would accept an African American student. She became the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license. Back in Chicago, she discovered there were no opportunities for women in commercial aviation. She went back to France for aerobatics training and became a barnstormer, making daring exhibition flights across the US. In 1926, at the age of 34, Coleman’s biplane went into a tailspin during a show. She was not wearing her seatbelt and fell to her death.

Dolly Shepherd’s Flying Trapeze

November 19, 1886 Balloonist and parachutist Elizabeth “Dolly” Shepherd was born in Potters Bar, England. She was the Edwardian era’s most famous balloonist, swinging from a trapeze suspended from her balloon before plunging back to earth with a parachute. She got her start with Buffalo Bill Cody’s show. After a year serving as Buffalo Bill’s shooting act target she moved on to balloons and became the star of the show.

Higher, Higher, Ruth Blaney Alexander

November 18,1929 Ruth Blaney Alexander set a light plane altitude record of 15,718 feet less than 24 hours after she earned her pilots’ license. By 1930 she had flown as high as 26,600 feet but that March, Elinor Smith  smashed the feat, flying her Bellanca six seater 32,576 feet. Alexander died in September 1930 when her plane struck a hillside shortly after takeoff. She was only 25 years old.

Women’s Flight Training Detachment Takes To The Sky

November 17, 1942 The first class of the Army Air Corps’ Women’s Flight Training Detachment (WFTD) began their twenty three week training program at Howard Hughes Field in Houston, Texas. The women tested and ferried planes, towed targets for anti-aircraft gunnery practice, and trained male cadet pilots. They were never issued uniforms, had to provide their own housing, and did not receive government benefits.

Jumping Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick

November 16, 1990 The Los Angeles Adventurer’s Club celebrated Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick, awarding her golden wings for over 1000 parachute jumps. Broadwick, only four feet tall, was the first woman to jump from an airplane and the first to parachute over water. In 1914, while demonstrating parachutes for the U.S. Army her parachute became tangled plane’s tail assembly. Cutting the static line, she “invented” the rip cord and became the first person to jump free-fall.

Pancho Barnes On The Silver Screen

November 15, 1930 Howard Hughes’ film Hell’s Angels was released, marking pilot Pancho Barnes’ debut as a movie stunt pilot. Hughes himself flew in the final scene and crashed his plane.

Wonderful Amy Johnson

November 14, 1932 British aviator Amy Johnson, known as “Wonderful Amy” left Croydon Airport and landed in Capetown, South Africa four days later cutting the prior record by eleven hours. When World War II broke out Johnson ferried planes from factories to air bases. In January, 1941 her plane crashed into the Thames estuary and her body was never found. The British Women Pilots Association established the Amy Johnson Scholarship which is awarded annually to further an outstanding woman pilot’s education.