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Tue, Dec 05, 2023

WAI Recognizes 2024 Inductees

Hall Of Fame Honors Pioneers of Years Past

Women in Aviation International (WAI) has chosen their crop of inductees for 2024, with 3 historic pioneers being added to their International Pioneer Hall of Fame.

Each will be honored at the 35th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference, which will include a ceremony and celebration dinner next March.

Katherine Johnson will be the first of the trio, recognized for her part in NASA’s 1960s Space Race. Her story, not even a footnote in historical records, was brought to light by the book "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly. Its turn into a movie brought awareness to her work in the mathematics of orbital spaceflight. Her department helped crunch the numbers that backed and supported each crewed NASA spaceflight.

Second up, WAI recognizes an entire group of women in place of one individual, the US Air Force Undergraduate Navigator Class 78-01. The class began as an experimental program to evaluate female pilots and navigators in 1975, drawing USAF officers from other career tracks in the service. The class includes Capt. Margaret M. Stanek, 1st Lt. Mary K. Higgins, 1st Lt. Elizabeth A. Koch, 1st Lt. Bettye J. Payne, 2nd Lt. Florence E. Parker, and 2nd Lt. Ramona L. McCall. Their citation says they"helped push open the doors for other women in military aviation with determination and professionalism. Ultimately, these women navigated around the world—something denied merely by policy since World War II."

Finally, WAI will induct the body of US Army Air Forces Flight Nurses of WWII. At their peak, the nurse corps included 500 flight nurses, operating among 31 medical air evacuation squadrons. They served around the world, working near the frontlines as they evacuated the most injured of the forces back to better medical care. Their work saved thousands, thanks to their extensive training and conditioning beforehand. Flight nurses were required to be capable of survival even in a crash much like pilots of the era were, too. By war's end, they had evacuated more than 1 million patients by air, losing 46 nurses along the way.

"Our 2024 inductees are shining examples of grit and determination,” says Stephanie Kenyon, WAI Interim CEO. "For over 30 years, WAI has annually showcased the accomplishments of female trailblazers—as individuals and groups—through our Pioneer Hall of Fame. We are proud to honor their unique talents and skill sets which have helped pave the way for other women and largely contributed to aviation and aerospace in unique ways.”

FMI: www.WAI.org/pioneers

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