2000 Pioneer Hall of Fame
Katherine Cheung received her pilot's certificate in 1932 as the first licensed Asian-American female pilot in the U.S. In 1935, she obtained an international airline license and flew as a commercial pilot. She flew aerobatics in an open cockpit Fleet and regularly entered competitive air races including the Chatterton Air Race in 1936. Born in China in 1904, Cheung came to the U.S. to join her father, a Los Angeles businessman. She attended the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music (and later the University of Southern California) where she studied music and piano. She was married in 1924 to George B. Young. In 1931, a pilot cousin invited Cheung to take an airplane ride. That was when her love for flying began and she signed up for flying lessons. She was disturbed at the news that women were not allowed to enroll in Chinese flying schools in her homeland. Cheung received her certificate in 1932, at a time when only 1% of licensed pilots in the U.S. were women. She also became a member of the Women's International Association of Aeronautics that year. Cheung then began her aerobatics/air show career. From 1933 to 1937, she entered numerous competitive air races and continued her aerobatics career. In 1935, she was invited to become a member of the International Association of Women Pilots, the Ninety-Nines, and became friends with Amelia Earhart. Following the Japanese invasion of China and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in 1937, Cheung declared her intention to return to China and participate in the War effort by opening a flying school to teach Chinese volunteers to fly. However, a male friend was soon killed while flying her airplane. Cheung's father, who was seriously ill and near death at the time of the accident, worried that something similar might happen to his daughter and secured a promise from her to give up flying. Cheung is listed in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum as the nation's first Asian aviatrix. The Beijing Air Force Aviation Museum calls her "China's Amelia Earhart." She died in 2003 at the age of 98.
Jerrie Cobb, a native of Oklahoma, learned to fly at age 12. She worked at small county airports after school and weekends to gain flying experience and learn aircraft mechanics. At age 18, she became a professional pilot whose jobs included pipeline patrol flying, charter flying, flight instruction, crop dusting and ground school instruction. Cobb worked as an international ferry pilot delivering USAF military fighters and bombers to countries around the world in her early twenties. She later set four world aviation records for speed and distance, and two for altitude. Cobb was selected in 1959 as the first woman to undergo astronaut selection tests. She passed all three phases of the grueling tests, but was not allowed to fly into space because of her gender. Cobb has received many awards and honors including the Amelia Earhart Gold Medal of Achievement, Pilot of the Year by the National Pilots Association, Captain of Achievement by the International Academy of Achievement and the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award for "humanitarian contributions to modem aviation." She also was awarded the Harmon Trophy as the world's best woman pilot by President Nixon at age 42.
Marion P. Jayne
Marion P. Jayne is recognized on six continents for world records, pioneering achievements, entrepreneurial innovations and encouragement of women to be successful in the field of aviation. She is the only U.S. pilot to have raced her airplane in two competitions around the world. Jayne and her daughter, Pat Keefer, received the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) Gold Medals for winning the longest race in history--24 days around the world. She is the first and only U.S. pilot to win the FAI Gold Medal as pilot-in-command. Jayne was 39 when she had her first lesson and earned her private, commercial, instrument, instructor and instrument instructor licenses in record time. She was the 12th woman to receive her ATP and did all this within five years of her introductory flight. Jayne broke new ground in the 1960s as the corporate pilot for the business she owned with her husband. She was so widely known as an excellent pilot of the Piper Twin Comanche, nicknamed the widow-maker, that she was invited to testify before Congress when it was investigating the Twin Comanche's safety record. A true innovator, Jayne created many racing techniques that are now a standard for the sport. She introduced air racing as a marketing event for national sponsors including insurance companies and air carriers. She invented the concept of individual handicaps for competing aircraft and flying starts. Jayne was the first person to create an annual cross-country air race open to male and female pilots. Previously, the sport was run by women for women. Among her many awards and honors include induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and being featured at the Ninety-Nines Museum for Women Pilots with her own cabinet, a distinction that she shares with Amelia Earhart. An 1800-mile cross-country air race was also renamed the Marion Jayne Air Race in her honor. In addition to being a world-class pilot, Jayne was an Olympic class swimmer and accomplished equestrian. She faced many challenges in her lifetime and few realiz ed that she had been a critically ill youngster, a child bride, homeless after a fire, young widow and single mother. These challenges made her tenacious, strong and determined to succeed. Jayne died in 1996.
Louise McPhetridge Thaden was born in Arkansas in 1905. Her father helped her develop mechanical interests by teaching her how to repair the family automobile. She took her first flight in 1919, a $5 ride with a barnstormer. While working at a job selling coal in Wichita, Kansas, Thaden met Walter Beech, the president of the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. She quickly impressed Beech with her resolve to pursue a career in aviation and, in March 1927, he arranged for her to work at Travel Air's Pacific dealership. As office manager, she was given the opportunity to learn to fly as part of her salary. She soloed in early 1928 and received her pilot certificate, signed by Orville Wright. She married Herbert von Thaden in July 1928. In December 1928, Thaden brought the world's altitude record for women to the U.S. for the first time, reaching an altitude of more than 20,000 feet. In 1929, she set a solo flight endurance record for women of over 22 hours and a women's speed record of 156 miles per hour in a Wright J-5 powered Travel Air. Thaden was the first and only woman to ever hold all three records simultaneously. Later that month, she earned her transport pilot's license, the fourth woman in the U.S. to do so. Thaden won the first Women's Air Derby as part of the 1929 National Air Races from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. Later that year, she became a founding member of the International Organization of Women Pilots, the Ninety-Nines. Thaden became known as the "girl who beat the guys" by winning the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race in 1936, establishing a new transcontinental speed record for women in the process. As a result, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale awarded her the Harmon Trophy as "the outstanding woman pilot in the United States for 1936." Although Thaden retired from aviation after the 1937 St. Louis Air Races, she stayed active in aviation for the rest of her life. Through her book, High, Wide and Frightened, and many newspaper and magazine articles, Thaden encouraged w omen to pursue aviation careers. She served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services from 1959 to 1961 and, from 1949 to 1970, held numerous positions with the Civil Air Patrol. Thaden died in 1979.
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