Free Admission - We're open daily from 10.00am (parking charges apply)

Women Pilots

In 1940 the American pioneer and racing aviatrix Jackie Cochran came up with the idea of forming a women's auxiliary unit to support the United States Army Air Corps. Her idea was rejected, but in 1941 she approached Britain with the idea of supplying female American pilots for the ATA. ATA pilots with a Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX One American, Ruby Garrett, was already serving with them, and Cochran hoped that a larger contingent would help her prove her case to the US military.

The ATA asked for 200 volunteers, but shortages of personnel and the stringent entrance tests meant that in April, 1942, Cochran arrived in Britain with just 25 female pilots. Once in Britain they faced further tests and instruction. Not all of them passed, leading to complaints from Cochran that the training was too difficult. Most saw the need for the strict standards, though.ATA female pilots ATA pilots would be expected to fly a wide range of aircraft, while the poor weather and crowded landscape made flying, and navigation, a much different proposition in Britain than in America.

Within six months Cochran had returned to America to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Several of her recruits returned with her, and more did so over the following year. Several more travelled to Britain to replace them, however, and some would remain in the ATA until the end of the war. Supermarine Spitfire F.24 at Castle Bromwich, waiting for delivery by the ATA

In all, 27 American women served with the ATA, enduring danger in the air and on the ground, meagre rations, low pay, and uncomfortable living conditions. One, Mary Nicholson, would be killed in a flying accident.


 
Share your RAF Stories

Collecting stories throughout the world

Find out more
Shobha Earl

Shobha Earl

RAF Stories
Share your RAF Stories
3 Pilots 1 War

Discover the amazing story of three First World War Pilots

Find out more
 Bernard Rice

Bernard Rice

First World War Pilot
3 Pilots 1 War
Historic Hendon Graphic Novel

Bringing the amazing stories of the RAF Museum's historic London site to life

Find out more
Ray Holmes

Ray Holmes

Unassuming Hero
Historic Hendon Graphic Novel
First World War Casualty Cards

You can now read online 300,000+ casualty cards belonging to RFC and RAF personnel

Find out more
Major James Thomas Byford McCudden

Major James Thomas Byford McCudden

First World War Ace
First World War Casualty Cards