Women Pilots Take Part in Living History Series

Florida’s aviation attraction, Fantasy of Flight, celebrates courageous WASPs – Women Airforce Service Pilots – in honor of Women's History Month.

| March 13, 2009

  • Two women pilots, part of the WASP program, talk business before a flight. The photo is part of an exhibit at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.
    Avenger hosted both military and civilian flight instructors, male and female. Many women served as civilian flight instructors for the WASP program. Some female civilian instructors ended up joining the WASPs after seeing many of their students go on to fly fighters and bombers.
    courtesy Fantasy of Flight, www.FantasyOfFlight.com
  • Tuskegee pilots gather 'round, in a photo on disply at Fantasy of Flight, in Polk City, Florida.
    The first Fantasy of Flight Living History Symposium focused on the Tuskegee Airmen. Just over one thousand men earned their pilot's wings at the all African-American Tuskegee Army Air Base in Alabama during WWII. Florida resident Dr. Yenwith Whitney (third from right) learns to fly the P-40 in early 1944.
    courtesy Fantasy of Flight, www.FantasyOfFlight.com
  • Members of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots program display their wings. The photo is part of an exhibit at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.
    After completing flight training a WASP would receive her Santiago Blue flight uniform in preparation for her first flying assignment. By the time the last class graduated in 1944, 1,074 WASPs had earned their wings.
    courtesy Fantasy of Flight, www.FantasyOfFlight.com

  • Two women pilots, part of the WASP program, talk business before a flight. The photo is part of an exhibit at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.
  • Tuskegee pilots gather 'round, in a photo on disply at Fantasy of Flight, in Polk City, Florida.
  • Members of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots program display their wings. The photo is part of an exhibit at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.

Polk City, Florida — Fantasy of Flight is proud to announce the second event in its three-part "Living History" Symposium Series, "A Passionate Pursuit," featuring the WASP — Women Airforce Service Pilots — a spirited squadron of pilots who left their homes and jobs at the height of World War II to serve their country as the first American women to fly for the U.S. military.

Part two of the Living History Symposium Series will take place Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28, in honor of Women's History Month, and will bring to life the experiences of some of America's most courageous aviators through permanent and semi-permanent exhibits, real aircraft, and most importantly, personal stories from real WASP pilots who will be answering questions and interacting with guests.

When every available American male pilot was absorbed into combat overseas, dangerous non-combat flight duty still required pilots stateside for ferrying, testing, dragging targets and liaison – tasks hardly suited for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. Once again the "greatest generation" stepped forward to meet the challenge – only this time the boots were filled by women.

Fantasy of Flight's WASP exhibition, which includes aircraft as well as four separate bays that feature historical, anecdotal and inspirational newsreel footage, original photos and storytelling panels from the 1940s and today, will serve as the backdrop for historic appearances from real WASP pilots, Betty Blake, Helen Wyatt Snapp and Bernice "Bee" Falk Haydu.



On December 7, 1941, 21-year-old pilot Betty Blake was scheduled to fly a tourist from one Hawaiian island to another. Lucky for her, the tourist cancelled the reservation and Blake was not in the skies when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Although she wasn't hurt, several of her Navy friends were killed and the event changed her life forever. She soon enrolled in the WASP program and flew planes from factories to bases on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts where they would be deployed for combat. Blake recalls, "They didn't think girls would be able to fly military planes," but together, the fearless female pilots logged nearly 60 million miles before the program was disbanded in December 1944.

Helen Wyatt Snapp was working as a government clerk in Washington, D.C., when she decided to take advantage of Franklin D. Roosevelt's new Civilian Pilot Training Program and quickly earned her private pilot's license. While her husband, Ira Benton Snapp, was serving overseas, Helen heard about the WASP program and wanted to do her part. She was accepted into the program in January 1943 and served at Liberty Field in Camp Stewart, Georgia, until WASP was de-activated. By that time, Snapp had completed more than 1,000 hours of flying time and flew numerous target missions, towing targets for live fire on anti-aircraft ranges.





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