Throughout history, women have defied gender norms and societal expectations by taking to the skies and pursuing careers in aviation. From Jerrie Mock’s first solo flight around the world to modern-day female pilots breaking barriers, women aviators have made significant contributions to the world of aviation. In this three-part series, we'll dive deeper into several Ohio female aviators who have made their mark in history. So, fasten your seatbelts and join us on a journey through the sky with these remarkable women aviators.
Part I: Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)
During World War II, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) made an indelible mark on the aviation industry and paved the way for future generations of female pilots. The WASP program was established in 1942 with the goal of freeing up male pilots for combat duty by employing women to take on non-combat flying duties. Over 1,000 women pilots from across the United States were recruited to serve in the WASP program, and they proved themselves to be skilled and dedicated aviators.
The WASP pilots underwent rigorous training and were responsible for ferrying aircraft, towing targets for ground troops to practice shooting at, and conducting test flights on newly repaired planes. Despite facing discrimination and skepticism from some male pilots, the WASP pilots earned the respect of their colleagues through their professionalism and competence. They flew a variety of aircraft, from small trainers to large bombers, and many of them performed hazardous missions with bravery and skill.
The WASPs arrived in Lockbourne, Ohio in June of 1943. Lockbourne Army Airfield (now Rickenbacker International Airport) was one of the primary training bases for the WASP program, and many of the women pilots received advanced training there in preparation for their duties. The Lockbourne airfield played an important role in training and preparing these skilled aviators for their duties.
While the WASP program was disbanded in 1944, the women pilots were not recognized as military veterans until 1977. Their contributions to aviation history cannot be understated. They opened doors for women in aviation and inspired countless future pilots to pursue their dreams.