This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Monday, April 23, 2018 12:43 AM

1943 - One of the most outstanding WASP ferry missions of World War II was completed. Four PT-26s (with a cruise speed of around 100 mph) were delivered from Hagerstown, Maryland to Alberta, Canada--more than 2,500 miles over 5 days. Flight leader Betty Gillies, 35, with "fellow" pilots Nancy Batson, Helen McGilvery, and Kathryn Bernheima were commended on their return for their efficient and prompt delivery, which included not only flying the planes but also the paperwork involved in such deliveries, such as flight logs, gasoline reports, and RON (remain over night) messages.

1960 - Actress Valerie Bertinelli was born. She would portray pioneering aviator Florence "Pancho" Barnes from Pasadena, California. Pancho took up flying in the 1920s and soon rivaled Amelia Earhart in breaking world airspeed records. Later, she established the Happy Bottom Riding Club near Edwards AFB a popular mess hall for pilots and ex-servicemen.

2004 - Flight examiner Maybelle Fletcher was presented with the FAA’s Master Pilot Award, given to an individual who has possessed a pilot’s license for at least 50 years and has made significant contributions to aviation safety and education. Maybelle, a native Texan, learned to fly in 1941 and received her pilot's license in 1943. In the 1970s, she and her husband purchased one of the largest flight schools in Texas, operating it for another 25 years, which made it the oldest flight school in Texas. The FAA award had been presented only once, making Maybelle the first woman to receive it.

2007 - Cessna concluded a week-long celebration of their 80th anniversary with a historic display at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida. Among the artifacts on display inside their 2,400-sq ft Cessna Center building was the 1936 Amelia Earhart Trophy awarded to Betty Browning for winning the Closed Course Race for Women Pilots at the National Air Races in Los Angeles. Betty won $675 when she flew a Cessna C-34 Airmaster to lead eight women in the 25-mile race, averaging 156.4 mph. The following year, Betty placed second in the same race.

2007 - Iris Peterson, 85, retired from United as the airlines’ No. 1 flight attendant in terms of seniority. She started as a "sky girl" in 1946, when jet engines were nowhere in site and her job carried restrictions for age, gender, ethnicity and weight.

2010 - A WWII flier's dream came true after she was offered a chance to roll and solo in her favorite two-seater over the skies of South Florida. Former WASP Tex Meachem, 92, went up in an AT6 trainer like she flew in the 1940s, fulfilling a wish that she expressed when she and 300 other surviving WASP veterans received a Congressional Gold Medal a month earlier.

2010 - Emma Browning, 99, known as “Austin’s First Lady of Aviation,” died. She and her husband Robert trained pilots during WWII. Postwar, they opened an aerial service business and gave flying lessons at what is now the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. She received a lifetime achievement award from the Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas Governor Rick Perry declared her as a “Texas aviation hero.”