Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Piece of WASP History: The Beechcraft E18S Restoration Project

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) (L-R) Bee Haydu, Kay Hilbrandt, Marty Martin Wyall, Florence 
"Shutsy" Reynolds and Nell Stevenson, five of the over 1,000 civilian pilots who became the first women in 
history to fly for the U.S. military, were welcomed to TCCD's Center of Excellence for Aviation, Transporta-
tion and Logistics.  Behind them, a Beechcraft E18S-9700 aircraft once owned by WASP founder and director 
Jackie Cochran.  May 22, 2015.
Across the nation, they left their jobs and homes to volunteer in their country's hour of need.  It was the height of WWII, and their flight backgrounds made them ideal candidates for an experimental program soliciting civilian pilots to relieve men for overseas duty.  They became Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the first women in history to fly for the U.S. military. 

Since 2012, a piece of WASP history has been under restoration in North Texas.  A Beechcraft E18S-9700 aircraft (pictured left), once the personal property of WASP founder and director Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran, is being restored at the Tarrant County College (TCCD) Northwest Campus' Center of Excellence for Aviation, Transportation and Logistics (CEATL). The center is housed at Alliance Airport in Ft. Worth.

Leaders from the community and the aviation industry were among those in attendance as the center welcomed WASP to honor them and shine a spotlight on the painstaking project which the restoration team envisions as "a flying historical tribute to these aviatrix heroes, the WASP of World War II."  The Beechcraft E18S Restoration Team

Working closely with TCCD to pay tribute to the WASP were staff members of the TWU Woman's Collection, including Kimberly Johnson, Coordinator of Special Collections for the TWU Libraries.  The Woman's Collection, the largest depository in the southern United States of research material about women, also houses the WASP official archive.  Archive images were shared with TCCD, for the WASP tribute and for ongoing work on the plane's nose art.  Woman's Collection staff members connected TCCD with scholarship representatives for the Women Military Aviators, Inc. and Whirly-Girls: International Women Helicopter Pilots (the collection is home to both organizations' archives), facilitating scholarship pathways for women TCCD students.  To keep WASP informed about the status of the Beechcraft E18S Restoration Project, updates appear in the WASP News (WASP newsletters dating back to 1943--containing a fascinating glimpse of WASP history--are available here).

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were welcomed to the TCCD's
Center of Excellence for Aviation, Transportation and Logistics to
honor them and shine a spotlight on the painstaking aircraft restora-

tion underway which underscores the WASP's service to their country
--and their sacrifices, achievements, and places in American history.  
Image courtesy of TCCD.  Complete program contents, courtesy of 
TCCD, are available here
In 1985 TCCD purchased the plane with the colorful pedigree (the aircraft was also once owned by Merv Griffin, and has a litany of famous former passengers and pilots) from the U.S. Customs Service.  A team of volunteers--professional aviation technicians and students majoring in aviation--began the plane's restoration in the summer of 2012; plans for the aircraft upon completion include using it "to educate aviation enthusiasts and prospective students about flying skills and aviation history, including the WASP's contributions."  Elva LeBlanc, Ph.D., Campus President, Tarrant County College Northwest Campus 

TCCD's CEATL provides expanded training opportunities for top industries that support the economy of the northern region of Texas.

To learn more about the WASP, visit the Official Archive of the Women Airforce Service Pilots here; catch up on WASP-related news here; visit the National WASP World War II Museum; and see a trailer for the WASP documentary Silver Wings, Flying Dreams here.  National PBS distribution of Silver Wings is scheduled for 2015; screenings of the film in several Texas cities are planned for later this year.  Watch this blog and the TWU Libraries' Facebook  and     Twitter for updates.  For more information, see the film's Facebook.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran was the driving force behind the WASP, as well as the program's 
founder and director.  After an illustrious career in aviation--including becoming the first woman to break the sound barrier--she died in 1980 (127 of the over 1,000 WASP are still living).  Jackie Cochran still holds more international speed, distance, and altitude records than any other pilot, male or female. Jacqueline Cochran Biography, National WASP World War II Museum

For WASP research assistance and related information, please contact the TWU Woman's Collection at or 940-898-3751, or Ask an Archivist.

~Sandy Cochran with Kimberly Johnson

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