Archived Story

Women pioneers in the aviation field

Published 7:00am Saturday, March 8, 2014

As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, we honor women who have blazed trails in male dominated fields. One such field is aviation.

Jacqueline Cochran made many groundbreaking accomplishments and direct contributions to aviation during times of peace and war.  She also developed and promoted her own line of cosmetics, which she used her flying skills to promote called “Wings.”

While Amelia Earhart may have more name recognition, Cochran earned more awards and supported women joining the armed forces as pilots in World War II.

Cochran began racing planes in 1934, and was the first woman to fly in the Bendix Race, which she won in 1937. She was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic and won five Harmon Trophies.

She enlisted the help of Eleanor Roosevelt to allow women pilots to conduct non-combat duties to release men to participate in more combat missions. This resulted in her organizing and directing the Women A

irforce Service Pilots (WASP) division.

At end of WWII Cochran covered global post war events for a magazine. As a reporter, she covered Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s surrender in the Philippines and she became the first non-Japanese woman to enter Japan after the war. She also attended the Nuremberg Trials in Germany.

Cochran joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1948, where she earned the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In the 1960s, Cochran piloted the Goodyear Blimp and sponsored the Mercury 13 program in an effort to test the potential of women as pilots.

She was at times referred to as “Speed Queen.” At the time of her death, August 9, 1980, no other pilot held more speed, distance or altitude records in aviation history.

Throughout her accomplished careers and adventures, Cochran received citations and awards of recognition. In 1949, the government of France awarded her the Legion of Honor and again in 1951 with the French Air Medal.

She became the director of Northwest Airlines in the United States.

The Air Force awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit.

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