Flying With America's Most Famous Female Aviators
Dozens of talented women preceded Amelia Earhart, and thousands have followed, and each has her own groundbreaking story to tell
- By Patricia Trenner
- Smithsonian.com, October 22, 2009
(U.S. Air Force)
Cochran made her initial mark in aviation by winning numerous air races and setting speed and altitude records in the 1930s. In 1942 she was tapped to form the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots—the WASPS, who transported some 12,650 military aircraft in the unit’s two years of service. After World War II, Cochran returned to racing and records; in 1953, she was the first woman to exceed Mach 1, breaking the “sound barrier” in an F-86 Sabrejet. A repeated winner of the Harmon outstanding pilot award, Cochran set more aviation records than any of her contemporaries, male or female.