AvStop Magazine Online
Jacqueline Cochran was an American aviatrix who organized the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). By Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, a group of American women was volunteering to go to England and ferry planes there. At their head was Jacqueline Cochran, the most famous woman pilot of the 20th century. Cochran had already proposed to Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold a program employing women pilots in the United States to free men there of overseas only should the need arise.
In mid summer 1942, Arnold, hard pressed for pilots, told Cochran to come home from England and put her plan into action. She came home in early September. Few American women had enough piloting time to meet the requirements for joining the Air Transport Command, which ferried planes.
However, by December, 25 had qualified as members of the WAFS (Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) under Nancy Love. Meanwhile, at Houston, a cadet flight school had enrolled 28 women, each having a minimum of 200 pilot hours and they were undergoing rigorous training from which two were withdrawn for medical reasons. Three failed to pass the tough course. As additional students reported to the flight school, facilities proved inadequate and the school was transferred to Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas.
As the urgent needs of the Air Forces increased, so did the duties to which women graduates were assigned. By September 1943, they were reporting not only to ferry aircraft, but to low target training to four-engine bomber school and to B-25 and H-26 (twin-engine bombers) schools from which they were assigned lo other bases. The acronym WAFS referred to "ferrying squadrons" and it was no longer applicable and with the appointment of Cochran to direct all WASPs the name was from then on "Women Airforce Service Pilots.
Jacqueline Cochran was born in around 1912, she was born and raised as a orphan in Pensacola, Florida until her early teens at which time she moved to New York. In 1932, Jacqueline obtained her pilot's license at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, in a Fleet Trainer only after three weeks of training. Two years later, Jacqueline entered her first Bendix Transcontinental Air Race in 1935 flying a Northrop Gamma. However, Jacqueline had to drop out due to engine problems. In 1937, she again entered the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race in a Beech Staggerwing, a race from Los Angeles, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. Jacqueline won first place with an average airspeed of just under 195 miles per hour. In 1938, Jacqueline again entered the Bendix Transcontinental Race and again won with an average airspeed of just under 250 miles per hour in her Seversky P-35.
Jacqueline had set three major course records: The Women's National Speed Record, The Women's World Speed Record and The New York To Miami Speed Record. As a result Jacqueline's performance, in 1938, she was awarded the prestigious Harmon Trophy as Outstanding Female Pilot of 1937. Jacqueline went on to establish a Women's National Altitude Record in 1939, flying to an altitude of over 30,000 feet and setting an International Speed Record of just over 305 miles per hour. Jacqueline held more speed, altitude and distance records for her time and the first women to ferry a bomber to England. In 1971, Jacqueline Cochran was named to the Aviation Hall of Fame, the first woman to have been so honored.