Betty Gillies

Betty Gillies (January 7, 1908 – October 14, 1998) was a pioneering American aviator, and the first pilot to qualify for the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later amalgamated into the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Betty Huyler Gillies
Betty H. Gillies
BornJanuary 7, 1908
Syosset, Long Island, New York
DiedOctober 14, 1998 (aged 90)
San Diego, California
Spouse(s)Brewster Allison "Bud" Gillies

Early life

Betty Huyler was born in 1908 to a relatively prosperous family on Long Island. She began flying in 1928 when she was a student nurse at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and on May 6, 1929, after a total of 23 hours of flying time, including instruction, obtained license #6525.

Betty immediately began building time toward a commercial license and when it was formed in November 1929, she joined The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women flyers, first led by pioneer woman flyer Amelia Earhart. The name of the group was chosen because 99 women were present for the first meeting, including Betty. Between 1939 and 1941, she was the president of the 99s and led the fight against the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) over the prohibition for women to fly during pregnancy.[1] She later owned and flew a Grumman Widgeon amphibian.

In 1930, Betty was married to Brewster Allison "Bud" Gillies, a vice president of Grumman Aircraft Corporation.[2]

World War II

Nancy Love and Betty Gillies
Nancy Love, pilot (left), and Betty Gillies (right), co-pilot, the first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. The two WAFS were set to ferry a B-17 named "Queen Bee" to England when their flight was canceled by General Hap Arnold.

In 1942, Gillies was the first pilot to qualify for the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. She entered the WAFS on September 12, 1942. At this time, she had amassed 14 years of flying experience, running up a total of 1,400 flying hours to her credit and held various aeronautical ratings.

When Nancy Love transferred to Love Field, Dallas, Texas to start a new WAFS ferrying unit, Gillies was made squadron leader of the WAFS assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group, New Castle Army Air Base, Wilmington, Delaware.

In early March 1943, Gillies became the first woman to fly the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt when she was checked out on the aircraft at Wilmington. The "check out" consisted of an explanation of aircraft systems, flight characteristics and emergency procedures. [N 1]

One of the outstanding ferry missions accomplished by the original Squadron at Wilmington came in April 1943, when four Fairchild PT-26s were delivered from Hagerstown, Maryland, to DeWinton, Alberta, Canada, a distance of more than 2,500 miles. Gillies was flight leader, and the other three pilots were Nancy Batson, Helen McGilvery and Kathryn Bernheim. The type of aircraft flown had a cruising speed of only around 100 mph.

The group left Hagerstown on April 18, spent the night at Joliet, Illinois (697 miles away), spent the next night at North Platte, Neb., after a run of 585 miles, then made a long hop of 846 miles to Great Falls, Montana. On April 21 they flew the remaining 275 miles to DeWinton, Alberta. All four pilots were back at the 2nd Group by Friday evening, April 23, and were commended by Colonel Baker for their efficient and prompt delivery, which included not only the flying of the aircraft but also the paperwork involved in such deliveries, such as flight logs, gasoline reports and RON (remain over night) messages.

On August 15, 1943, Love and Gillies qualified as first pilots (aircraft commanders) on Boeing B-17s and made three deliveries together during the balance of the month. On September 2, 1943 Gillies and Nancy Love departed Cincinnati on a ferry mission to deliver a B-17F to England; however, the mission was canceled before the aircraft left Goose Bay, Labrador.

Gillies remained squadron leader of the Women Airforce Service Pilots assigned to the 2nd Ferrying Group at New Castle Army Air Base until the WASPs were disbanded on December 20, 1944.

Betty and her husband Bud Gillies, had three children. One of her children died at age 4; her remaining son and daughter became commercial pilots, and four of her grandchildren become pilots as well.


After World War II, Gillies was a ham radio operator who, using her radio, connected phone calls to ships in the Pacific from her home in California. She had her huge antenna directed at the Antarctic and maintained contact with the staff and Navy personnel in Operation Deep Freeze who were stationed there for two year hitches. She also participated in the Navy MARS program under the call sign NNN0AYT.

Staying connected to aviation, Gillies was the Chair of the All Woman Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR) from 1953–1961.

In 1964, Gillies was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as the first Federal Aviation Administration Women's Advisory Committee. She died in 1998.

Awards and honors

Gillies Received a Paul Tissandier Diploma from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in 1977 and the National Aeronautic Association Elder Statesman of Aviation Award in 1982.

See also



  1. ^ Since the P-47 Gillies was checking out, was a single-seat aircraft, her first flight in the type was also her first solo flight.


  1. ^ Rickman 2008, p. 92.
  2. ^ Chen, C. Peter. "Betty Gillies". World War II Database. Retrieved: August 21, 2014.


  • Haynsworth, Leslie and David Toomey. Amelia Earhart's Daughters. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1998. ISBN 978-0-68815-233-8.
  • Merryman Molly. Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) of World War II. New York: New York University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-81475-568-6.
  • Pelletier, Alain. High-Flying Women: A World History of Female Pilots. Sparkford, UK: Haynes, 2012. ISBN 978-0-85733-257-8.
  • Rickman, Sarah Byrn. Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-57441-241-3.
  • Stewart-Smith, Lt. Col. Natalie J. The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II: Perspectives on the Work of America's First Military Women Aviators. Pullman, Washington: Washington State University, 1981.

External links

Deaths in October 1998

The following is a list of notable deaths in October 1998.

Entries for each day are listed alphabetically by surname. A typical entry lists information in the following sequence:

Name, age, country of citizenship at birth, subsequent country of citizenship (if applicable), reason for notability, cause of death (if known), and reference.

List of women aviators

This is a list of notable women aviators — women prominent in the field of aviation as constructors, designers, pilots and sponsors. It also includes a list of organizations of women aviators.

Lynn Rippelmeyer

Lynn Rippelmeyer is the first woman to fly the Boeing 747. Rippelmeyer flew the 747 as a first officer for Seaboard World Airlines 1980-1981. In 1984, Lynn also became the first woman to captain the "Jumbo Jet" across the Atlantic Ocean. Lynn started her aviation career as a TWA flight attendant in 1972 before obtaining a departmental transfer to pilot as a TWA B-727 flight engineer. She was the first officer for the first all-female crew for a scheduled commercial US carrier (with Captain Emilie Jones, Air Illinois, DHC-6 Twin Otter, 30 December 1977). This event was featured in the PBS series We'll Meet Again with Ann Curry on Jan 8, 2019. In 1982 at People Express, Rippelmeyer was a co-captain on the first all female Boeing 737 crew. She then went on to fly for Continental Airlines when People Express was merged, and later for United Airlines when it merged with Continental. At United, she trained on the B-787 Dreamliner before retiring in 2013. She has been honored with her uniform being placed in the Smithsonian Institution, being named as Woman of the Year in England (1984), inducted into the International Forest of Friendship by Betty Gillies, an original 99; mentioned in Who's Who of American Women 1983/1984, and being featured in a BBC documentary, Reaching for the Skies (Episode 2 The Adventure of Flight). Most recently, she was featured on PBS We'll Meet Again with Ann Curry when she reunited with Air Illinois pilot, Emilie Jones, 40 years after their historic flight.

Nancy Harkness Love

Nancy Harkness Love (February 14, 1914 – October 22, 1976), born Hannah Lincoln Harkness, was an American pilot and commander during World War II. She earned her pilot's license at age 16. She worked as a test pilot and air racer in the 1930s. During World War II she convinced William H. Tunner to look to set up a group of female pilots to ferry aircraft from factories to air bases. This proposal was eventually approved as the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. Love commanded this unit and later all ferrying operations in the newly formed Women Airforce Service Pilots. She was awarded the Air Medal for her work during the war and was appointed lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force Reserve in 1948.

Neptune Range

The Neptune Range is a mountain range, 112 km (70 mi) long, lying WSW of Forrestal Range in the central part of the Pensacola Mountains in Antarctica. The range is composed of Washington Escarpment with its associated ridges, valleys and peaks, the Iroquois Plateau, and the Schmidt and Williams Hills. It was discovered and photographed on January 13, 1956 on a US Navy transcontinental plane flight from McMurdo Sound to Weddell Sea and return.

Named by US-ACAN after the Navy 2V-2N Neptune aircraft with which this flight was made. The entire Pensacola Mountains were mapped by USGS in 1967 and 1968 from ground surveys and U.S. Navy tricamera aerial photographs taken in 1964.


The Ninety-Nines: International Organization of Women Pilots, also known as The 99s, is an international organization that provides networking, mentoring, and flight scholarship opportunities to recreational and professional female pilots. As of 2018, there are 155 Ninety-Nines chapters across the globe, including a 'virtual' chapter, Ambassador 99s, which meets online for those who are too busy or mobile to be in one region for long.

The organization was founded on November 2, 1929, at Curtiss Field, by 26 licensed women pilots for the mutual support and advancement of women pilots. Amelia Earhart had called for a meeting of female pilots in 1929 following the Women's Air Derby. All 117 women pilots licensed at the time were invited, and the group is named for the 99 of them who attended the meeting or expressed an interest in forming a group. In 2014, the Ninety-Nines was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Women Airforce Service Pilots

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) (also Women's Army Service Pilots or Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots) was a civilian women pilots' organization, whose members were United States federal civil service employees. Members of WASP became trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft and trained other pilots. Their purpose was to free male pilots for combat roles during World War II. Despite various members of the armed forces being involved in the creation of the program, the WASP and its members had no military standing.

WASP was preceded by the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). Both were organized separately in September 1942. They were pioneering organizations of civilian women pilots, who were attached to the United States Army Air Forces to fly military aircraft during World War II. On August 5, 1943, the WFTD and WAFS merged to create the WASP organization.

The WASP arrangement with the US Army Air Forces ended on December 20, 1944. During its period of operation, each member's service had freed a male pilot for military combat or other duties. They flew over 60 million miles; transported every type of military aircraft; towed targets for live anti-aircraft gun practice; simulated strafing missions and transported cargo. Thirty-eight WASP members lost their lives and one disappeared while on a ferry mission, her fate still unknown as of 2019. In 1977, for their World War II service, the members were granted veteran status, and in 2009 awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.


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