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An 18 Year Old Test Pilot

by John White |  | 1 comment

The Test Pilot

When we think of a test pilot we imagine a grizzled guy in a crumpled flight suit holding a helmet and wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses.

But rarely do we think of a test pilot being a female! Really!

 And at the age of 18?

How did one become a test pilot at the tender young age of 18?

And a female test pilot to boot?

The Start

It started in 1931...

In the early days of aviation two things captured the attention of people: air records set by daring pilots and anything to do with flying.

And this is where the story started.

You see, there was a family called the "Flying Hutchinsons, America's Flying Family."

The father was a pilot, and he decided to take his family on a cross country flight - across the USA visiting all 48 states!

Oh, he claimed it was to encourage air travel, but truth be known it was the adventure.

They even tried to fly across the Atlantic in a Sikorsky Amphibian but had to make a forced landing off the coast of Greenland where they were rescued by a passing trawler.

In 1932 the two sisters and mother were featured as Life magazine's photo of the year.

Little wonder that Janet Lee Simpson decided to join the war effort when only 18 by joining the WASPs.

Her father knew Jackqueline Cochran and arranged for an interview for Janet with her in Washington, DC.

A short time later found Janet in Sweetwater, Texas to begin flight training.

Janet Lee Simpson Then

Her time in the WASPs was spent as a test pilot, a ferry pilot and a flight instructor.

She graduated in WASP Pilot Class 44-W-6 at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas as a Vutee BT-13 "Valiant" qualified pilot.

During training her best friend, Elizabeth Erickson, was killed in a mid-air collision with another pilot, so danger lurked just around the corner for all of them.

A Corporate Pilot

After the war Janet continued her career as a pilot fling businessmen all around the country for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for meetings, and during one such flight she recalled that the pilot she was flying with had her go back and talk to the passengers when they got into some bad weather only to find them clutching their seats in fear, and some even crying!

But soon the men returned home, and there were plenty of male pilots available, so the flying career of these wonderful women came to an end.

Janet Lee Simpson opened a nursery school which she ran for 39 years while teaching at a flight school.

Eventually the school had more than 100 students, and later on Janet Lee Simpson trained racehorses.

Recently 174 WASPs attended an award ceremony to receive the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their service.

Janet Lee Simpson Today

Some 1,100 WASPs flew more than 60 million miles during their service, and only about 300 remain alive today.

If only we could get more young people to learn to fly and seek out aviation as a career today!

What a wonderful career aviation is!

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! 

WASP Women Take On The World Of Aviation

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Comments (1)

  • Albert "Chig" Lewis on June 24, 2019

    Help us honor Janet Lee and the rest of those remarkable women who served their country as WASP in WWII. Visit us at WASP FLOAT DOT COM. Albert Lewis, Wingtip-to-Wingtip Association

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