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Women Pilots Causal About Testing Fighter Planes for the Navy

New York World - Telegram November 16, 1943

Called Nation’s Only Feminine Test Pilots, They Fly High at Grumman Aircraft to Give Navy Fine Ships
By: Sally MacDougall, Staff Writer

After rolling off the production line and before being turned over to the U.S. Navy today, several new planes destined for combat fronts were given tests in the air by three women fliers at the Grumman Aircraft plant on Long Island.

Said to be the nation’s only girls who take fighter planes on test flights, the feminine pilots guiding those great tools of war that went roaring toward the sky - Hellcat fighter planes and an Avenger torpedo bomber - seemed to regard the assignment as a casual chore in the day’s work.

Each appeared unimpressed that her hands would be directing controls with the strength of 12 horses, that eyes and brain would be alert for behavior in the war weapon’s maiden flight, minds aware that gadgets on fighter planes should be in perfect form for gunnery, for swift climbing, swooping, dodging, or as obedient bombing weapons to hasten the war’s end.

Through a brisk wind chilled the field, it was mild compared to what would be encountered 8,000 feet up.  So the test pilots, Teddy Kenyon, Barbara Jayne, and Elizabeth Hooker, wore fleece-lined shoes and jackets and hugged cockpit cushions to keep the wind away while crossing the field in motor scooters to where their planes were waiting.

“Take a look at the dashboard,” Barbara Jayne suggested as she buckled her parachute harness before stepping up to the Hellcat seat.  The girls explained that from the moment a plane starts to taxi across the field until it lands, they watch the instrument board on test flights.

All three women test pilots are about the same size, around 5 feet, 5 inches and weight about 110 pounds.  Mrs. Kenyon has been flying since 1929.  Her husband is a flight engineer at the plant.  The other two are younger.  Barbara Jayne’s husband, Lt. J. M. Jayne, flies fighter Hellcats for the navy.  Her log shows 2,300 flying hours.  Elizabeth Hooker, a brunette in the trio, is a Smith College graduate.

During miles in the air over the North Shore, the test pilots held radio conversations with another pretty girl, Mary Center, head of the traffic control board in the field’s glass tower.

“In the air, they go where we tell them to go,” Miss Center said.

Pioneer girl in that important job, she sits between two others at a table of weather charts and instruments that record wind, velocity, and direction and tells those positions of other planes in the area.

"Calling 18.  You are asked to please come in,” she phoned.  “Calling 37.  Hold your position please.  Calling…Put your wheels down.  You don’t want a belly landing.”  In bad weather, she stacks them 1,000 feet apart. 

“Those test flights were about perfect,” she said.


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