This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Thursday, July 19, 2018 4:18 PM

1937 - Official search efforts for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan ended 17 days after pilots' last transmission. The $4 million air and sea search by the Navy and Coast Guard, authorized by President Roosevelt, involved none naval ships and 66 aircraft. Nevertheless, the most costly and intensive search in history produced no physical evidence of Earhart, Noonan, or the Electra 10E.

1941 - Four of the “First Eight” of Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary--Winnie Crossley, Margie Fairweather, Joan Hughes, and Rosemary Rees—flew their first solo in a Hawker Hurricane at their home base at Hatfield. Women were cleared to fly Hurricanes and Spitfires when demands for fighter and bomber pilots exceeded the capacity of the male ATA pilots. Several more women would qualify in Hurricanes over the next few weeks.

1943 - WASP Shirley Slade graced the cover of "Life" magazine. Inside was a story about Jackie Cochran's Women's Flight Training Detachment, the World War II training center for women pilots. The article, which contained extensive photographs depicting the daily life of the Air Force aviation cadets, would provide the first publicity for the program, encouraging many women pilots to join.

1943 - Soviet Air Force pilot Katya Vasylievna Budanova, one of the world's two female fighter aces (along with Lydia Litvyak) was conducting a solo combat mission with three German Bf 109s. She hit one, but was shot down herself and killed in the Ukraine.

1971 - “Sports Illustrated” magazine covered the 25th Powder Puff Derby: “There were nearly 300 female pilots and copilots in 35 varieties of planes zinging across 2,442.44 statute miles from Canada down to Louisiana for $25,000 in prizes in the biggest Derby that ever took wing. And, naturally, the girls were racing for the ‘You've Come a Long Way, Baby’ trophy.” One of the racing teams was sponsored by Virginia Slims cigarettes.

1981 - Donna Lehmann, 28, became the first female C-5 loadmaster for the her wing and one of the first in the entire U.S. Air Force. The reservist would retire as a Chief Master Sgt after a 30-year military career filled with more firsts: her wing's first female loadmaster instructor and her unit's first female flight examiner.

1985 - NASA selected Christa McAuliffe for its Teacher in Space Project with Barbara Morgan as her backup. In the autumn of that year, both would take a year-long leave of absence from teaching (NASA paid their salaries) to train for the space shuttle Challenger mission in early 1986. Highly sought after by the media, Christa developed an immediate rapport with them as she explained how she would teach lessons from space. Her popularization of the Teacher in Space Project resulted in the Challenger accident having such a significant effect on the nation.

1990 - When First Officer Maliha Sami took off in a Fokker F-27 Friendship on her first scheduled flight with Pakistan International Airlines, she became the first Pakistani woman pilot to operate a scheduled PIA flight.

2009 - The 2009 Pioneering Achievement Award was presented to former U.S. Air Force Major Nicole Malachowski at the 13th Annual Amelia Earhart Festival in Atkinson, Kansas. Nicole was most widely known as the first female performer for any U.S. military demonstration team--the USAF Thunderbirds. With 185 combat flight hours in Operation Deliberate Forge and Operation Iraqi Freedom, she went on to serve on Obama's Presidential Transition Support team and, at the time, participated in the prestigious White House Fellows program for leadership and public service.

2010 - Tammy Duckworth, a former U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk pilot severely wounded in Iraq in 2004, passed her checkride to become an FAA-certificated private pilot in fixed-wing aircraft. She hoped to eventually return to helicopter flying, despite suffering the loss of her right leg and most of her left. An officer in the Illinois National Guard, although her amputations prevented her from military flying. the Washington, DC-resident also served as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.