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Nancy Love, Leader of the WAFS and later, Executive Director of the WASP in the ATC

In May of 1940, twenty-six year old Nancy Harkness Love wrote general Bob Olds, Major Tunner's superior, with a plan to use women pilots to ferry planes in the ATC. At first the idea of using women pilots was dismissed but in 1942, as the shortage of male pilots became acute, General Olds decided the time was right to put Love's plan into action. Most of his colleagues, including Major Tunner, were skeptical or flatly believed that women were incapable of flying military aircraft.
In September of 1942, Nancy Love was appointed as the director of the Women's Auxiliary Flying Squadron (WAFS) under Major Tunner and given a chance to prove the skeptics wrong. Nancy initially sent telegrams out to eighty-three of America's best women pilots recruiting them as civilian pilots serving in the Ferry Command. The women had to be between twenty-one and thirty-five, have logged at least 500 hours in the air, hold a commercial license, a 200-horsepower engine rating, and have recent cross-country flying experience. Twenty-seven women met these rigorous standards and answered the call to serve their country during wartime.

WAFS Betty Gillies seated in the cockpit of a PT-19. Nancy Love standing on the wing

WAFS Evelyn Sharp stepping into
the cockpit of a pursuit aircraft

These twenty-eight women, "The Originals" as they would come to call themselves, began ferrying light aircraft and primary trainers such as Stearmans and PT-19 Fairchilds. They quickly went on to check-out in larger aircraft including pursuit planes such as the P-38 and P-51. The WAFS merged with Jackie Cochran's program, the Womens Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) in 1943 to become the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Collectively these women surpassed all expectations and proved that women could fly military aircraft with as much skill and competency as their male counterparts.

page last updated 5/3/2017 5:35 PM