Nancy Batson Crews: Alabama's First Lady of Flight
This is the story of an uncommon woman—high school cheerleader, campus queen, airplane pilot, wife, mother, politician, businesswoman—who epitomizes the struggles and freedoms of women in 20th-century America, as they first began to believe they could live full lives and demanded to do so. World War II offered women the opportunity to contribute to the work of the country, and Nancy Batson Crews was one woman who made the most of her privileged beginnings, youthful talents, and opportunities.
In love with flying from the time she first saw Charles Lindbergh in Birmingham (October 1927), Crews began her aviation career in 1939 as one of only five young women chosen for Civilian Pilot Training at the University of Alabama. Later, Crews became the 20th woman of 28 to qualify as an original Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) pilot, employed during World War II to shuttle high-performance aircraft—P-38, P-47, and P-51—from factory to staging areas as well as to and from maintenance and training sites. Before the war was over, 1102 American women would qualify to fly Army airplanes. Many of these female pilots were forced out of aviation after the war as men returning from combat theater assignments took over their roles. But Crews continued to fly, from gliders to turbojets to J-3 Cubs, in a postwar career that began in California and then resumed in Alabama.
The author, Sarah Bryn Rickman, was a freelance journalist looking to write about the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) when she met an elderly, but still vital, Nancy Batson Crews, who held a reunion of the surviving nine WAFS. Sarah interviewed each of them, including Nancy, recording hours of testimony and remembrance before Crews' death from cancer in 2001. After helping lead the fight in the 1970s for WASP to win veteran status, it was fitting that Nancy Batson Crews was buried with full military honors.
Softcover, 296 pages, 24 illustrations
Published by the University of Alabama Press (September 15, 2009)
Other books by Sarah Rickman:
Engaging and well written, [this book] will appeal to general readers. It also makes an important contribution to the literature of WAFS/WASP, Alabama history, and women's history.
- Robert J. Jakeman, author of The Divided Skies: Establishing Segregated Flight Training
This book is a hybrid between biography and oral history, and as such affords readers the best of both genres: we hear a lot form Crews in her own voice in a way that really brings her to life, and we also have the author’s more impartial voice to add perspective and flesh out the details.
- Leslie Haynesworth, author of Amelia Earhart’s Daughters: the Wild and Glorious Story of American Women Aviators from World War II to the Dawn of the Space Age