"I soloed September 3, 1933, in 4 hours and 30 minutes. I swore never to fly again."
Pioneering pilot, Teresa James, was born on January 24, 1914, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and took flying lessons to surprise her brother. She soloed at age 19 and became the first female flight instructor to graduate from Buffalo Aeronautical Institute received her commercial transport license October 27, 1941, with over 600 hours.
She earned the money for her extra flying hours by flying as a stunt pilot at air shows around Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. "My specialty was doing a 26 turn spin two miles up and pull out at 1,000 feet." She flew Airplane Stunting Exhibition for three years. As she said later in Jan Churchill's On Wings to War,
"Those were the days of undiluted heroics, but you were known; yet with all my flying time, I never believed I'd get to be a part of history."
She married George "Dink" Martin, one of her flight students, in 1941. Dink enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a flight instructor and bomber pilot.
From WASP Betty Turner's "Out of the Blue and Into History," Teresa wrote: "...I received a telegram from General Arnold about a group of women pilots for domestic ferrying. I then had 2,254 flight hours.
I was sworn into the WAFS on October 6, 1942,. I was the first WAFS pilot to fly a military plane coast-to-coast across the United States. It was in a PT-19. I have told of my life adventures in the WAFS in the book ON WINGS TO WAR by Jan Churchull. In early 1944 Dink was sent overseas. I received word that Dink's B-17 was shot down June 22, 1944.
After deactivation December 1944, I went back home to work in the flower shop. Hoping Dink was a POW, i received official notice that he had been missing in action since June, 1944. in 1984 in Joinville-le-Pont, a suburb of Paris, I talked to witnesses to Dink's crash. After 40 years i found out what happened to Dink.
In 1939, I joined the 99s, and in 1986 was honored by inclusion in the Forest of Friendship in Atchison, Kansas. I am a life member of the P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot Association, the Grasshoppers (Women Pilots of Florida), and the silver Wings Association. I was awarded a Pancho Barnes in 1980. I donated my WAFS uniform to the National Air and Space Museum of The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, where it is on display."
This pioneering, one-of-a-kind aviator, took her final flight on July 27, 2008, passing away quietly in Lake Worth, Florida. She was 94. Her ashes were carried back to Pennsylvania where her family still owns and operates their flower shop.
Teresa's story has been told beautifully in Jan Churchill's "ON WINGS TO WAR"
Other links to more information on Teresa:
The Originals by Sarah Rickman
written and submitted by Nancy Parrish