Cornelia Fort was instructing a student pilot when they almost collided with a Japanese aircraft leaving the attack on Pearl Harbor. She and her student were some of the few eye-witnesses to be airborne during the attack.
Cornelia was the second woman to volunteer for Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (the WAFS), which would eventually merge with the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) to form the WASPS.
According to the National Air and Space Museum, “on a routine ferrying flight in 1943, Fort died at the controls of an aircraft when another plane struck hers.
She was the first woman pilot to die in the line of duty for the U.S. military. A marker at the Cornelia Fort Airport in Tennessee bears this quote from the pilot: ‘I am grateful that my one talent, flying, was useful to my country.'” Yesterday marked the 80th anniversary of her death.
Thanks to the National Air and Space museum for their image and detailed bio of Cornelia.