A riveting oral history/biography of a pioneering woman aviator.
This is the story of an uncommon woman--high school cheerleader, campus queen, airplane pilot, wife, mother, politician, business-woman--who epitomizes the struggles and freedoms of women in 20th-century America, as they first began to believe they could live full lives and demanded to do so. World War II offered women the opportunity to contribute to the work of the country, and Nancy Batson Crews was one woman who made the most of her privileged beginnings and youthful talents and opportunities.
In love with flying from the time she first saw Charles Lindbergh in Birmingham, (October 1927), Crews began her aviation career in 1939 as one of only five young women chosen for Civilian Pilot Training at the University of Alabama. Later, Crews became the 20th woman of 28 to qualify as an "Original" Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) pilot, employed during World War II shuttling P-38, P-47, and P-51 high-performance aircrafts from factory to staging areas and to and from maintenance and training sites. Before the war was over, 1,102 American women would qualify to fly Army airplanes. Many of these female pilots were forced out of aviation after the war as males returning from combat theater assignments took over their roles. But Crews continued to fly, from gliders to turbojets to J-3 Cubs, in a postwar career that began in California and then resumed in Alabama.
The author was a freelance journalist looking to write about the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) when she met an elderly, but still vital, Nancy Batson Crews. The former aviatrix held a reunion of the surviving nine WAFS for an interview with them and Crews, recording hours of her own testimony and remembrance before Crews's death from cancer in 2001. After helping lead the fight in the '70s for WASP to win veteran status, it was fitting that Nancy Batson Crews was buried with full military honors.
Sarah Byrn Rickman is a freelance journalist and award-winning author of Flight from Fear and The Originals: The Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II.