March 1, 2010

By: Gary Vacin, Publicity Director



Former WASP Pilot Addresses Aero Club


“I was at the right place at the right time,” former WASP pilot Betty Blake told an enthusiastic audience at the Sun Lakes Aero Club meeting January 18.


            Blake described her experiences as a pilot, beginning with her first flight in an airplane in Hawaii  to her years of service as a Women Airforce Service Pilot during World War II. As part of that elite group, she flew military aircraft from manufacturers’ factories in Long Beach, Calif and other locations to Army Air Force bases where the planes were put into service by military pilots.


            We were in the original WASP class back in 1943, she said. “We were known as the ‘guinea pig” class because they didn’t know if women could fly military aircraft.  We showed them we could, and the program became permanent.”


            More than 25,000 women applied to the WASPs, but only 1,830 qualified to begin flight training, she said.  “I was one of the lucky ones.”


            A typical week as a WASP might involve three or more cross-country flights.  Her favorite flight involved piloting a P-51 Mustang from Long Beach, Calif.  to a military base at Newark, N.J., an eight-hour flight, and then flying a P-47 Thunderbolt back to California the next day.  She flew 78 different military aircraft, ranging from single-engine trainers and fighters to four-engine bombers including  B-17s and B-29s.


            She also described her experience as a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.  “The night before the attack, I accompanied three Navy aviators to an Officers Club.  I had never had a drink before, but had three Southern Comforts that night, and felt the effects the next day.  My father talked one of the pilots into spending the night at our house and the other two returned to their ships on Battleship Row.  Unfortunately, one died on the Arizona and the other on the California the next day.”  Blake watched the attack from her home on a hillside overlooking Pearl Harbor the next morning.  Blake married the surviving pilot three months later.


            Now in its 15th year, the Sun Lakes Aero Club meets the third Monday of each month from October through May at the Sun Lakes Country Club. More information on the club is available from Bob Walch, 480-895-8869 or Al Galvi, 480-802-0104.



SLAC Vice-President Al Galvi presented a Cross pen to
Betty Blake, a former WASP pilot at the Club’s January 18th meeting.