Pioneer Hall of Fame inductees named

Air racers, a WASP, the first woman aeronautical engineer, and one of the first women airplane mechanics for the United States Navy will soon be inducted into Women in Aviation, International’s Pioneer Hall of Fame.

These women will be honored at WAI’s 23rd Annual International Conference, which will be held March 8-10, at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. The ceremony will take place at the closing banquet on Saturday, March 10.

“The banquet is an evening where we honor women who opened doors for us,” says WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. “Our members are inspired by the rich history these women bring. In many cases, they get to actually meet these living legends and speak to them and be photographed with them. It’s an experience our members don’t soon forget.”

The Pioneer Hall of Fame Inductees for 2012 are:

First Women’s National Air Derby Pilots: In 1929, 20 women pilots flew in the first women’s National Air Derby from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. During this nine-day event, the women encountered sabotage, mechanical difficulties, navigational challenges, and cultural stereotypes. Louise Thaden won the heavy class plane division of the race and Phoebe Omlie won the light class plane division of the race. One participant, Marvel Crosson, lost her life during the race. Shortly before her death, Marvel said that she would gladly give her life to prove that women could fly. The other 17 women include: Florence Lowe “Pancho” Barnes, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Elder, Claire Fahy, Edith Foltz, Mary Haizlip, Jessie “Chubbie” Miller, Opal Kunz, Ruth Nichols, Blanche Noyes, Gladys O’Donnell, Neva Paris, Margaret Perry, Thea Rasche, Bobbi Trout, Mary Von Mach, and Vera Dawn Walker.

Bernice (“Bee”) Falk Haydu, WASP Class 44-7, was assigned to a U-78 training base where she flew as a utility pilot and an engineering test pilot. Bee is best known for her service to the WASP organization (Order of Fifinella) as its president from 1975 to 1978. During that time, she worked with Col. Bruce Arnold (Gen. Hap Arnold’s son) and Senator Barry Goldwater to bring about militarization of the WASP and to gain them veteran’s benefits. The WASP had the support of all the women serving in both the House and Senate at the time. Bee and several other WASP testified at the various hearings, and their efforts were rewarded when President Jimmy Carter signed The G.I. Bill Improvement Act of 1977, granting the WASP full military status for their service. In 2003 Bee published her memoir “Letters Home 1944-45.” Bee remains a much sought-after spokeswoman for the WASP, proudly wearing her WASP uniform on many occasions.

Mary Magdalene (“Maggie”) Maga, one of the United States Navy’s first women aircraft mechanics, trained and served during World War II as an Aviation Machinist Mate. Besides doing maintenance on aircraft on the night shift, she also performed line handling services such as driving trucks, parking and fueling aircraft, and lighting the black smudge pots used to light the runways at night. She received flight pay for flying on test flights following inspection and maintenance checks. Maggie paved the way for the women mechanics and line service crew members who followed her. She is proud to represent the other unnamed women who maintained and serviced Navy aircraft during WWII, and she remains busy encouraging the younger generations of women mechanics.

Elizabeth (“Elsie”) MacGill is often cited as the first woman in the world to qualify as a professional aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer. In 1927 she was the first woman in Canada to receive a degree in electrical engineering. At the University of Michigan in 1929 she became the first woman anywhere to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. The same year, she contracted polio, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. Early in World War II, Elsie was appointed Chief Aeronautical Engineer for the Canadian Car and Foundry Plant in Fort William, Ontario, where the Hawker Hurricanes were built for the Allied forces overseas. Elsie promoted mass production techniques for the aviation industry, modified the Hurricane for winter use, and established standards for test pilot reporting. She was also the first woman to serve as Chair of a United Nations aviation technical committee; in that capacity she led the drafting of the first airworthiness regulations for the new International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Later in life she became an activist for women’s rights, and a mentor for women in aviation and engineering. She died in 1980.

The Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame was established in 1992 to honor women who have made significant contributions as record setters, pioneers, or innovators. Special consideration is given to individuals or groups who have helped other women be successful in aviation or opened doors of opportunity for other women. Each year, the organization solicits nominations from throughout the aviation industry for the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame.

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