Saturday, July 3, 2010

Stars of the Sky, Legends All by Ann Lewis Cooper, ill by Sharon Rajnus

On a recent trip to one of my favorite places to go, the aircraft museum, I found this book in the gift shop. The cover pretty much sums it up so well, (Illustrated histories of women aviation pioneers) there is no need for me to summarize it. Instead, I am going to take this opportunity to post some of my favorite tidbits of information and my favorite women aviatiors in this book. I'm sure a lot of you will find these women as fascinating and amazing as I have.

First up for a shout out from me is Gerladine Mock.

She succeeded where Amelia Earhart failed and became the very first woman to fly solo around the world and cross both major oceans. This amazing feat was accomplished in 1964, 26 years after Amelia and Fred diappeared.
The second lady aviation pioneer to grab my attention in this book is Willa Beatrice Brown.

Willa was the first black woman to be an officer in the Civil Air Partrol, co founder of the National Airmen's Association of America, and the co owner of the Coffey School of Aeronautics where she was a flight instructor. In a time in which flight schools were predominantly white, Willa lobbied tirelessly to give African Americans the aviation opportunities they deserved and desired. Many of her graduates became participants in the Tuskegee Experiement and this led to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen was an all African American unit.
Another African American woman of note that overcame numerous odds and bigotry: Janet Harmon Bragg.
She was the first black woman pilot to earn a Commercial Certificate. With the outbreak of World War II, Janet applied to the WASP but upon showing up for her interview, her application was declined because of the color of her skin. This was a sad say for African American women everywhere and the WASP lost many a good woman pilot due to this bigotry. This amazing woman, however, did not let this setback deter her and turned around and offered her skills as a nurse. When this attempt was also barred, Janet fought and fly until obtaining her commercial pilot's license, a major accomplishment for both women and African Americans. She very well may also have been the first black woman in the nation to purchase an aircraft.
Also of note, and not for her flying skills, but for her generous funding and support of the early aviation industry: Mabel Hubbard Bell, the wife of Alexander Graham Bell.
This woman was deaf and unable to use her husband's invention of the telephone, but she refused to be handicapped. She suggested and funded the Aerial Experiment Association and her generosity helped the Silver Dart take flight in 1909. This was the first flight by a British subject of a heavier than air, powered, controlled aircraft in Canada. The saddest thing is that Mable was unable to hear the passing aircraft she helped to create.
Commander Trish Bechman was the first woman to qualify as a naval flight officer in the F-15E and the F/A-18D.
She fought a two year battle for the right to fly in the above mentioned aircraft, a battle she finally won in 1992. Thanks her, women could officially begin training in combat aircraft in 1993.

And the last woman I want to give a huge thumbs up to is Major Nicole Malachowski, a terrific role model for young girls today.
Nicole was the first woman pilot selected to fly with the elite Air Force Thunderbirds in 2006. No other woman before her has ever flown with a military demonstration team, but thanks to Nicole, the door is now open. I also want to note that she flies the amazing, powerful, and at the moment in my personal opinion, the greatest aircraft in military service, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. (I very well may have at some point, repaired one her wings so I admit to some bias here...)

And I gotta end this on a bit of a negative note... a MAJOR THUMBS DOWN....

to Milo Burcham who said, "Women have no place in aviation." Hmph. Is that right? Well, Mr. Burcham, I think we have proved you wrong.


  1. This is an awesome summary of this book. I can just bet it was last weekend you went to this museum right up your alley and your company. This sounds like a wonderful book thank you for sharing this with us. I think it is so neat. I wonder what Milo Burcham thinks now?
    The bigotry and the discrimination is appalling. To this day there is still discrimination towards women in the pay category. Some people will never learn women are equal to a man and deserve the same pay for doing the same job.

  2. He passed away in 1944 in the flame-out on take-off of the engine of third production prototype YP. He was a test pilot for Lockheed Martin. Quite an accomplished fellow. But he is quoted as saying that in the book. Perhaps he changed his mind before his tragic death. Who knows?

  3. Equal? I'm equal to a man? Dang, I always thought I was better!

    Just kidding, guys. Or maybe not.

    Great review!