March 25, 1993 Former beautician Barbara Harmer qualified to fly the Concorde and became the first female supersonic commercial pilot. She had been one of a tiny handful of pilots British Airways selected for six months of intensive training. Later that year she made her first flight as captain from London to JFK Airport in New York. Harmer was one of only forty female pilots employed by British Airways and its only woman Concorde pilot.
March 24, 2001 Elinor Smith was inducted into the International Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame. Her salute begins "Elinor Smith was a record breaking pilot who did everything with a flourish." The Hall of Fame is operated by the Women In Aviation, International, an organization that promotes aviation careers for women. Mary Barr, Ann Baumgartner Carl, and Elizabeth (Betty) Pfister were also honored that year.
March 23, 1991 Amelia Earhart's flight instructor Neta Snook passed away at age 95. "Snookie" had been the first woman pilot in Iowa and the first woman to operate a commercial airfield. Earhart had a deal with her parents that only a woman flight instructor would teach her to fly. She hired Snook for the job but only paid for the first five hours of her twenty hours of training.
March 22, 1996 Astronaut Shannon Lucid launched into space aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. She would remain in space for almost half a year, most of that time aboard the Russian Mir space station. Lucid was a born explorer and discovered her love of space as a young girl. You can read more about this adventurous astronaut and biochemist in Vicki Oransky Wittenstein's article Dr. Shannon Lucid: Space Pioneer, in HighlightsKids magazine.
March 21, 2009 Canadian aviation pioneer Lorna DeBlicquy passed away. At age 14 Lorna fell in love with the sky and by the next year she had earned her pilot's license. Soon she added skydiving to her repertoire and became Canada's first (and youngest) female parachutist. DeBlicquy went on to fly passengers and supplies into the high Arctic, gliders in New Zealand, and mercy missions in Ethiopia.
March 20, 1937 While attempting to circle the globe, Amelia Earhart ground looped her Lockhead Electra. The flight had to be postponed and the plane sent back from Hawaii to California for repairs. The cause of the crash remains controversial. Crew member Fred Noonan claimed pilot error but Earhart said either the landing gear had collapsed or a tire had blown. Earhart eventually departed in June but disappeared, never to be found, on July 2, 1937. The record flight would have to wait until 1964, when Jerri Mock became the first woman to fly around the world solo.
March 19, 1964 Jerrie Mock left Columbus, Ohio. Twenty nine days, eleven hours and fifty nine minutes later she returned home, the first woman to fly solo around the world. When Mock was 12 years old she rode in a Ford Trimotor and discovered her passion for flying. She set many speed and distance records and a half dozen "firsts" in the air.
March 18, 1995 Aviator Wally Funk was inducted into the Aviation Women's Hall of Fame. In 1961, Funk entered the Women In Space test program. Thirteen women passed the tests undergone by male astronauts- everything from drinking radioactive water to submersion in an isolation chamber to performing difficult maneuvers in a centrifuge and high altitude chamber. They were nicknamed the "Mercury 13" and expected to be accepted into NASA's astronaut ranks, but after political manuevers, including negative testimony by famed pilot Jackie Cochran, the project was abruptly canceled. Funk went on to work as a flight instructor and fly for an aviation company but she has never lost her love her space. Her story and the stories of the other 12 female astronaut candidates was chronicled in Tanya Lee Stone's award winning book for young people, ALMOST ASTRONAUTS.
March 17, 1909 Aviation pioneer Katharine Wright, along with brothers Orville and Wilbur, met England's King Edward VII. Wilbur demonstrated the Wright Flyer and Katharine rode as a passenger. During the tour, outgoing Katharine became the toast of Europe while her shy brothers stayed in the background. Although often unsung, Katharine was an important partner in the Wright's airplane business. All three siblings were awarded the French Legion d'Honneur for their work in aviation.