2006 Pioneer Hall of Fame
Unbeknownst to her parents in late 1940, Fran Bera began skipping high school classes to take flying lessons, and soloed at age 16. She earned her commercial certificate and flight instructor ratings, became a free fall parachutist, and ferried surplus aircraft after World War II. She was one of the first women to be designated as an FAA Pilot Examiner at the then minimum age of 24. She has been a designated Pilot Examiner for private, commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings for more than 25 years, during which time she has certified more than 3,000 pilots and lost count of the number she soloed. She was employed as a pilot from 1945 to 1985.
Bera was the first woman to fly a helicopter with no tail rotor, while she was an experimental test pilot for Lift Systems, Inc., and was one of the 25 women invited to participate in a week-long testing program of potential women astronauts at the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Bera is a seven-time winner of the All Woman Transcontinental Air Race (Powder Puff Derby) and won the Palm to Pines All Women's Air Race in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005. For 31 years she's held the world altitude record for class C-1-d, established in June 1966 in Long Beach, California, in a Piper Apache. Her latest goal is to be a member of the Flying Octogenarian Club because she plans "to wear out, not rust out."
In 1942, Jeanne Holm was among the first women to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War II. She originally served as a truck driver in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1944. She left active duty after the war, but was recalled in 1948 during the Berlin Airlift and commissioned in the newly created U.S. Air Force. In her 33-year military career, she excelled in many assignments, including Director, Women in the Air Force. She was the first woman to attend the Air Command and Staff College. She was the first female Air Force Brigadier General in 1971, and then the first woman in any branch of the military to wear two stars (Major General) in 1973.
On active duty and after, Major General Holm has been an ardent advocate for opening doors to military women. She was appointed a Special Assistant for Women to the President during the Ford administration, and she used her influence to ensure that Air Force women were admitted to flight training in 1976. Following that, she served on DACOWITS, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and was an expert witness in front of Congress numerous times speaking out on issues affecting women in the armed forces. Her books on women in the military are considered classics.
Women military aviators owe Major General Holm a debt of gratitude for opening doors and for being their advocate. She says, "I have always felt the military's goals were best met by finding the best person- male or female- with the right talents and aptitudes."
Galina Gavrilovna Korchuganova
Galina Korchuganova joined a sport parachute club while in high school and immediately fell in love with aviation. She graduated with highest honors from high school and was accepted at Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) where she majored in Aviation technology.
After graduation from MAI in 1959, she worked as an engineer at Ramensk Avionics Construction Bureau and competed in sport aviation. In 1965 she set her first world record on a 100 km closed circuit flying the Yak-32 jet. Galina became the first absolute world aerobatic champion among women, winning gold and silver medals at the World Championship in Moscow in 1966.
Only after winning championships and flying more than 1,000 hours did she receive a reply to her request to attend test pilot school from the Ministry of Aviation. They had a condition-"If you can find a brave man who is willing to take you as a test pilot, we won't object, as an exception to the rules." There was no brave man found, however, there was a woman. Hero of the Soviet Union Valentina Stepanova Grizodubova was head of the Science Research Center of Flight Test, and she gave Korchuganova a chance. Korchuganova graduated from the flight school in Kirovograd and flew until 1984, advancing in rank from test pilot of the 5th class to 2nd class. Korchuganova went on to set a total of 42 world records in Yak-32, Yak-40, and AN-24 aircraft. hours.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in late 1991, Korchuganova looked around and saw her women friends being forced out of aviation into more "useful" careers. She founded Aviatrissa in 1992 to provide support and guidance to women in aviation fields, and was their first president. Sadly, on January 18, 2004, she passed away following a long illness.
Major General Betty Mullis
Major General Betty Mullis retired from the Air Force Reserve after serving 33 years in all components of the Air Force, the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve. She attained the aviation rating of command pilot and logged more than 4,900 flying hours in military aircraft. She participated in worldwide air refueling and airlift operations including Desert Storm, Provide Hope and Joint Endeavor. She still is actively flying as a civilian airline pilot.
General Mullis transitioned to the Arkansas Air National Guard (ANG), where she was among the first women in the ANG to earn her wings. She flew KC-135s and C-130s in the ANG, then transitioned to the Air Force Reserve in 1988, returning to the KC-135. In 1993, General Mullis became the first woman in the Air Force Reserve to command a flying squadron-and the second within the entire Air Force. In 1996 she became the first woman in the entire Air Force to ever command a flying wing.
General Mullis was the first pilot female officer in the Air Force to attain the rank of Brigadier General in 2000 and Major General in 2002. The sea of military uniforms seen at WAI conventions is a direct result of the General's vision, dedication and endless efforts to afford women a better opportunity than she had to pursue an aviation career. She fully understands the need for mentorship and has a keen appreciation for the courage of those individuals who provided support and encouragement to her and other women military aviators early on. She not only mentors others herself, she inspires fellow officers and aviators to do the same-a sign of a true pioneering spirit who helps open doors of opportunity for other women.
Betty Jane (BJ) Williams
Betty Jane (BJ) Williams has been actively involved in practically every phase of aviation, missiles and space for more than 60 years. She received her pilot's certificate in June 1941 through the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor BJ became an airline stewardess with Canadian Colonial Airlines aboard a Douglas DC-3. Six months later she was selected to train as a Link Trainer Instructor and taught military pilots the art of navigation.
In 1944, she entered the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) pilot training program, and was assigned as an engineering test pilot at Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas, flight-testing advanced trainers and the P-40 fighter aircraft. The WASP were deactivated on December 20, 1944.
In 1947, Williams convinced CBS-TV to telecast her program "Let's Go Flying." She created and produced the first TV network aviation show transmitted by coax cable from New York City to Boston, Massachusetts. One of Williams' greatest challenges was teaching a deaf-mute boy to fly.
In 1948, Williams was hired as a technical writer with North American Aviation, a manufacturer of many tactical aircraft, including the B-45 bomber and F-86 fighter. Her creative film techniques saved many a pilot's life, attested to by wires and letters from the military at the Korean War front.
Williams was called to active duty during the Korean War and assigned to the 1354th Video Production Squadron, for which she was one of two women and 98 men to be selected worldwide. She served the military for 28 years, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1979. Williams was a film writer, director, and producer for Lockheed for 20 years, covering early designs of missile systems, tactical aircraft such as the P-3 and F-104, and commercial aircraft such as the L-1011.
Williams was one of the initial organizers of the post-war Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) national organization, and she has served in several leadership roles over the years.
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