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Lady Spitfire pilots?

Old 1st Oct 2003, 19:16
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Lady Spitfire pilots?

Thread on another website, apparently Hollywood has a movie in the offing about ladies who flew American Fighter aircraft from 1942 onwards, ie they delivered the aircraft from factory to Airforce stations I imagine.
We had some lady pilots that did the same here didn't we?, I recal seeing one wartime lady Spitfire pilot being interviewed a while back.
Just out of curiosity, what year did the wartime lady pilots start in this country, anybody got any idea?
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Old 1st Oct 2003, 19:30
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November 1939.

See this site for all the details...

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Old 1st Oct 2003, 19:54
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The two female Spitfire aviators I have the most respect for are undoubtedly Carolyn Grace and Margaret Horton. (Margaret was the young lady who managed to fly a circuit while draped over the tailplane of BBMF's AB910 back in 1941...)
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Old 1st Oct 2003, 21:20
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In the States they were called WASPS (Womens Air Service Pilots or almost) and flew production test, ferry, training and other missions to free up the guys to get shot at or go overseas to see what they could see.

Knew several in my younger days, they are gone now bless them, but it was hard for the young me to believe that that nice lady who lived next door flew P-47s and P-51s. But it was true, I saw her log book one day.

There was some higher profile publicity recently here on this having to do with veteran benefits and recognition for WASPS. Seems they were not legally considered to be military so did not get military recognition on their own after the war. This seemed a little illogical later on and there was some activity for a little recognition and some benfits for these ladies.
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Old 1st Oct 2003, 23:19
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Canadian Marion Orr flew Spits during WW2 as a ferry pilot. Interesting little bio at [url]canadian99s.org/articles/profile_marion_orr.htm
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Old 2nd Oct 2003, 00:51
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Ann Welch, who very sadly died just before Christmas told me that she had flown over 110 Spitfires during the war - there's a chapter or so on it in her Autobiography "happy to fly", also she chatted about it briefly on the "Scrapheap Challenge" flying machines episode that she judged.

Apparently Ann's checkout was 5 short sorties in a Harvard before being signed off "qualified all allied fighters" but in practice the lead-in before being allowed loose on a Spit was much more gradual through various lower performance types.

I seem to recall a few of these remarkable ladies having entries in the "Daily Telegraph book of Airmens obituaries" which I recommend getting for many reasons if you haven't a copy already.

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Old 4th Oct 2003, 00:57
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Being based at White Waltham, have heard some fascinating stories from these diminutive ladies.

Some planes they had NEVER flown before. They were just given the Pilot's Notes, a facsimile of which is available from the shop at White Waltham, with all the relevant speeds and got on with it, flying around during war time with no armament!!

Their log books make fascinating reading -i.e. in one day: Spitfire, Anson, Lancaster, Hurricane......

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Old 7th Oct 2003, 09:51
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Thanks for the tip about the pilots notes being available at White Waltham. I sent the info to a friend, Tommy Thompson, who flew Blenheims (plus several other types), and he had this to say:

'Thank your for your abridged info about the ATA Pilots Notes. It was a specially edited kneepad flip over book on all aircraft likely to be ferried and was laid out to give Start up, Taxi, Take off, Climb, (ATA) cruise figures, Descent , Landing and Shut Down information in a most condensed form. The pilots were sent to a primary traing school and checked out on Tigers or Magisters which then entitled them to fly light basic singles such as Prefects ,Tutors, Harts, and probably Lysanders.

Then to faster heavier singles at Thame to do 13 hrs on Harvards followed by 5 hrs on a Hurricane and finally 5 hrs on a Spit 5. (That was also my conversion after 500 hrs on heavy Twins back to fly Spits at Lyneham). The were then cleared to fly the foregoing a/c and fast single engine fighters like Defiants ,Fulmars, Mustangs, Typhoons, Merlin engined Spits, and with increased experience Griffon engined Spits. The twin training school was at White Waltham with Oxfords and Hudsons and finally for a limited few the 4+ category (I think that was the name) for 4 engined bombers (usually assisted by an engineer who was sometimes an ATC cadet with a good !Q). So often the positioning ride in the back of an Anson or Fairchild Argus was spent mugging up on a new type to be collected.

Joan Hughes was one of the elite 4+ qualified and Lettuce Curtis . Joan was also the pilot of the Demoiselle in the" Mag Men" when the firm building the machine for the film could not get it off the ground and on returning to the Paris home of the original discovered that Santos Dumont was only about 8 stone'.

I can also recall Monique Agazarian mentioning that there was at least one type where she was told to be prepared to exit quickly, because it was prone to catching fire on startup!

best regards,

p.s. am trying to get Tommy to write a book about his experiences both wartime and postwar at Hatfield.
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