Inducted in 1968
First Woman To Pilot An Aircraft Supersonically, 1953
1906 – 1980
On May 18, 1953, aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to pilot an aircraft supersonically. She broke the sound barrier, flying 625.5 miles per hour, in an F-86 Sabre and thus joined the previously male only “supersonic club.” Years later, on June 3, 1964, Cochran piloted an F-104G Starfighter at twice the speed of sound, establishing a woman’s world speed record of 1,429 miles per hour.
Cochran learned to fly at age 22 in order to expand her cosmetics business. She soon caught racing fever and competed in numerous races during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Cochran won several air records, including the women’s west to east transcontinental speed record and altitude records. She became the first woman to make a “blind” landing and the first to fly a warplane across the Atlantic Ocean. From 1938 to 1940, she received the Harmon Trophy as the outstanding woman flier in the world.
Early in World War II, Cochran served with the British Air Transport Auxiliary. After returning home, she organized a program to train women ferry pilots for the Army Air Force. Her trainees and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron were merged into the U. S. Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Cochran was appointed Director of Women Pilots when the organization was created in 1943.
The Harmon International Aviation Awards Committee named Cochran “Aviatrix of the Decade” in 1950. By 1961 she held more speed records than any other pilot in the world.