formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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January 29, 2008 The Ninety-Nines

Liberty Gazette
January 29, 2008

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

: Raymonde de Laroche was a French stage actress, and on October 22, 1909 became the first woman to pilot an airplane. About five months later the Aero Club of France issued license No. 36 to Madame Laroche, making her the first woman licensed pilot in the world.

As a member of the Ninety-Nines and Women in Aviation, International, I meet a lot of female pilots. The Ninety-Nines is the oldest and largest organization of women pilots. In 1929, all 117 licensed American female pilots were invited to “assemble for mutual support and the advancement of aviation.” 99 of them made the gathering and joined the group, hence the name. To dismantle the impression that “girl pilots” had a conflict with the men, founding member, Opal Kunz made it clear that no “militant girls” were welcome. “We are not striving for any more consideration than we have already received…we are trying to bring about a different attitude toward the girl in aviation, whereby, she is accepted as an equal... It should be an inspiration to all American girls to learn to fly, to develop skill, and fit ourselves for the splendid work ahead in aviation.”

Louise Thaden, another founding member, remains an inspiration for many women today, nearly 30 years after her death. Louise set records in altitude, endurance and speed. Bessie Coleman, the first black woman pilot, and Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to earn a pilot license, are a couple more aviators of great inspiration.

"The Flying Beautician," Juanita Bailey, supported her flying from her beauty salon. "Instructors didn't think women had any business flying. One instructor would take all the boys flying first. I did a lot of needlepoint waiting to be taken up for a lesson." She flew patrol and coastal missions for the Civil Air Patrol during WWII. As a ferry pilot after the war she delivered planes to remote locations, requiring long solo flights over jungles and open water without radio or navigation equipment.

Today, the Ninety-Nines’ motto is “To promote world fellowship through flight, provide networking and scholarship opportunities for women and aviation education in the community, and to preserve the unique history of women in aviation.” There are many extraordinary women in aviation, and you can expect to read more about them in the weeks ahead.

Mike: I became acquainted with the Ninety-Nines early in my flying career as I competed on my college flight team. They were the spotters and line judges for our precision landing events at safety conferences. They were supportive of the flying teams and I can’t imagine those events being so well run without them.

Mike & Linda: A couple of weeks ago we shared an inspirational story about how important the Liberty Airport has been for one family when their brother with Downs Syndrome was ill. We send our condolences to the King family in the passing of Gayden last week.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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