Women Who Fly
Portraits of female pilots
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, December 19, 2008
Everyone’s heard of Amelia Earhart. But how about Patricia Jenkins, a pilot who uses her helicopter to herd cattle? Or Suzanne Asbury-Oliver, a skywriter for the Pepsi-Cola Company? Or Florence Parlett, an airport operator in tiny Edgewater, Maryland?
“As a photographer working at the National Air and Space Museum,” writes Carolyn Russo in her book Women and Flight, “I pass by Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega almost every day. So when a friend suggested I photograph [modern-day] women aviators, it seemed only natural.”
In 1992 Russo began her search for subjects. Rather than focus on “the fastest and most famous,” she decided to document a range of pilots, letting each woman tell her own story in the accompanying text. Russo’s book, Women and Flight: Portraits of Contemporary Women Pilots (1997, Smithsonian Institution), offers a delightful array of female pilots and their stories of flying. Click on the images at right to see a selection.
Text and images reprinted with permission.
Marty Goppert, Flying Circus Pilot
Dressed in her flying uniform for The Flying Circus, Bealeton, Virginia, 1992.
“The Flying Circus got started by these fellows who had a love of old airplanes. It’s a takeoff on the 1930s barnstorming show, placed between Warrenton and Fredericksburg, Virginia, off a country road….
I really never had a great interest in flying. I’m a nurse, and when I would go up with my husband, who was flying for United Airlines, and me being practical and thinking about the whole situation, I wanted to know how to land this airplane if he ever had a heart attack…. So he said, ‘Well, if you’re going to learn to land it, you might as well get your license, because landing is the hardest part.’
I got my license so that I could land the aircraft, and from there my love for flying grew. I just really enjoyed going up and flying around and getting away from everything, especially if you’ve had a hectic day at work, and enjoying the beauty of the country from up above. You don’t have the traffic, the hassle, and the busyness of our society that we live in day to day.”