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17 Nancy and the Planes She Ferried Early in May of 1999, Nancy called yours truly. She was coming to Dayton for the reunion, May 24 and 25. Could we get together? Nancy and I had met in 1992 when she came to the International Women’s Air and Space Museum (IWASM) for the WASP program. Nancy was planning to visit the U.S. Air Force Museum. Would she agree to have a videographer follow her around the museum and videotape her looking at and talking about the various airplanes she flew?1 She was amenable. A call to Judith Wehn, education specialist at the museum, verified that such an undertaking was permissible. John Moraites, who volunteered his time and talents at Miami Valley Cable Council, where we had, in the early 1990s, taped IWASM’s “Women in Aviation” programs, would do the videography. John, his wife and production assistant Barb, and I met Nancy at the Air Force Museum the morning after her arrival in Dayton. Judith met us as well and told us that we were invited to have lunch with Gen. Charles Metcalf , the museum director. Judith also had met Nancy at the IWASM WASP panel in 1992 and she had told the general about her. He wanted to meet the Golden Girl of the Ferry Command. As we toured the museum, Nancy stopped in front of all of “her” airplanes and talked about her experiences flying them. “Now look here . . .” We were standing by the A-20, her favorite airplane—a big, powerful-looking, camouflage-green, twin-engine attack bomber. “This is how we got up and into the cockpit,” she said, pointing out two covered footholds on the fuselage behind the wing. “Here’s the nosewheel that wouldn’t lock in place,” she said when we stopped at the P-38. She related the story of her November 4, 1944, flight over Pittsburgh and acted out for us the arm, hand, and body gyrations she 138 • Chapter 17 went through in the cockpit to blow the CO2 cartridge and lock that errant nosewheel down. “I wore a flight jacket just like that,” she said, pointing to a case containing the famous brown leather bomber jacket with the Air Transport Command emblem on the left breast. “Now this is the Link trainer—a flight simulator. We got inside and pulled the top down and we were completely enclosed. All we could see was the instrument panel. See the operator, sitting over there at the desk,” and she pointed to the mannequin dressed in a khaki Army uniform sitting at a desk outside the stationary blue and yellow simulator. “He would talk to us and put us through all sorts of problems. That was our first instrument training.” Occasionally a museum visitor would stop and listen to Nancy and then ask her a question or just talk with her. She responded cordially, always with that smile. John, without showing the face of the questioner, managed to get the conversations on the tape—adding more interest to our program. “This was the first pursuit plane I flew,” she said, as we approached the museum’s P-47. “I got out of the back seat of an AT-6 and into this. What a jump! A taildragger with that great-big engine. See that big, wide landing gear. Beautiful! Easy to fly!” When we got to the prominent plaque that displays pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s famous poem “High Flight,” John videotaped Nancy reading it. Judith appeared to escort us upstairs to lunch. Awaiting us was not only General Metcalf, but also some other staff members and a couple of members of the Friends of the Museum—all there to meet Nancy. And Nancy didn’t disappoint. She entranced the entire gathering with her Southern accent , her smile, and her stories and came away from lunch with an invitation to come back and speak as part of the museum’s lecture series the following season. After lunch, we went over to the Presidential Hangar. All the airplanes that have served our various presidents are kept in a separate hangar across the field from the museum proper. Nancy wanted to see them. Back then— long before 9-11 and heightened security—the only way to get there was to climb in your vehicle and drive over. The hangar was actually on WrightPatterson Air Force Base and you needed permission to enter, but permission , in 1999, was not hard to...


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MARC Record
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