Aviation Memorabilia Newsletter Since 1995

Aviation Memorabilia Newsletter

Since 1995

On December 16th 1931, Elizabeth "Betsy" Flaherty obtained her flying license at 53 years of age making her oldest female pilot in Canada, at the time. She was a passenger on the first Trans-Canada Air Lines across Canada flight and a charter member of the "Flying Seven".

(see NetLetter nr 1367) (Source: Vancouver Sun archives)

Whirly-Girls: Silly Name, Serious Aviators.
By Rick Durden. 

tmb whirley girls embemWhen I got my first job flying freight in the mid-1970s, every single pilot I met was a white male.

I didn’t really think anything about it—it was the way of the world.

There were no women flying for the airlines or the military and the WASPs of World War II were not even a memory—no one spoke of them. Chief pilots made it clear over beers after work that they didn’t hire women or minorities (sadly, I still hear that from chief pilots, although from far fewer).

It was with that background that I was introduced to the Whirly-Girls organization by a colleague about 25 years ago. My initial reaction was that calling a full-grown adult a “girl” or a “boy” is a major league insult—fighting words in some places—so this has got to be some sort of group of bimbos that maybe get to stand next to helicopters for cheesecake photos.

Was I ever wrong.

The real name for the organization is Whirly Girls International (WGI). It was formed in 1955 by Jean Howard Ross Phelan—one of the 13 known female helicopter pilots in the world at the time (nothing was known of female helicopter pilots behind the Iron Curtain)—for the purpose of supporting women in the world of rotary-wing aviation.

It is a non-profit, charitable organization that provides scholarships for women to further their careers as professional helicopter pilots and to mutually encourage each other in the process.

(Source: avweb.com July 21/17)