This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Saturday, November 17, 2018 3:30 AM

1942 - Nellie Zabel Willhite, 34, used her father's check and $100 of her own money to pay $200 for a 10-hour course in flying. Deaf since age 2, the expert speaker and lip-reader would become South Dakota's first female pilot. As a barnstormer, she would perform comedy skits, pretending to steal a plane that she didn't know how to fly until, taking pity on the audience, she dazzled them with her skills.

1942 - The Guinea Pigs, the first of 18 classes led by Jacqueline Cochran, started their training at Houston Municipal Airport, as part of the 319th Army Air Force Women's Flying Training Detachment, just after the WAFS had started their orientation in Wilmington, Delaware. Unlike the WAFS, the "Woofteddies" (WFTD) did not have uniforms and had to find their own lodging. They also had minimal medical care, no life insurance, no crash truck, no fire truck, a loaned ambulance from Ellington, insufficient administrative staff, and were trained with a hodgepodge of 23 types of aircraft. As late as January 1943, when the third class was about to start their training, the trainees were described as "a raggle-taggle crowd in a rainbow of rumpled clothing.

2009 - In 2009, the Indian Air Force announced it was unlikely to recruit women as fighter pilots. The Vice Chief Air Marshal cited the potential of women as prisoners of war and pregnancy, which hindered the optimal utilization of its investment in pilots.