Thursday, December 10, 2009

Award: Sarah Byrn Rickman wins Combs Gates Award

Early in World War II, Nancy Harkness Love recruited and led the first group of twenty-eight women to fly military aircraft for the U.S. Army. Her pilots ferried military aircraft across the United States during a time when pilots were in short supply.

Sarah Byrn Rickman, whose book Nancy Love and the Wasp Ferry Pilots of World War II (University of North Texas Press, 2008) covers the career of Nancy and other women pilots of the ferry command, recently earned the seventh-annual Combs Gates Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame for her research. The prize carried a $20,000 cash award.

While Harkness Love flew the swift P-51 and the capricious P-38, the heavy, four-engine B-17 bomber and C-54 transport were her forte. Love checked out on twenty-three different military aicraft and became the first woman to fly some of them, including the B-17 Flying Fortress. She ended her World War II career on a high note: following a general's orders, she piloted a giant C-54 Army transport over the fabled China-Burma-India "Hump," the crucial airlift route over the Himalayas. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.

Congratulations, Sarah Byrn Rickman and UNT Press, on winning this prestigious award!