Sarah and the Aeronca Champ
Sarah Byrn Rickman and the Aeronca Champ

Sarah Byrn Rickman

Author of the WASP

Sarah Byrn Rickman knew at age 5 she wanted to write books. At 13, she read about Amelia Earhart and wanted to fly. A 20-plus year career in journalism — as a reporter/ columnist for The Detroit News and later editor of the Centerville-Bellbrook (Ohio) Times — put her on the brink of her dream. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing and, in 2001, saw the publication of her first book — The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II.

Her 12th book will be out this spring (2022). Sarah now writes upbeat biographies about the gutsy women pilots who flew as WAFS and WASP in World War II. She writes these books for today’s young women – the girls in STEM classes, girls who want to fly and in some way be involved in aviation’s future.

As for that desire to fly, Sarah earned her Sport Pilot certificate in 2011, flying a sweet little 1940s-vintage taildragger Aeronca Champ—yellow with a red belly.

Wings of Gold

A Poem by Sarah Byrn Rickman

Fog shrouds the wings; dawn, but a shard of light.
Twin engines labor, eager to unbridle the horses.
Toes, hard on brakes, check the trembling aircraft.

From the tower, “Cleared for takeoff.”
Brakes off. Throttle to the firewall.
Spine thrust back against the seat.

Rolling, rumbling, reaching,
Wheels eat up runway. Lift.
Ease yoke back. Climb!

Eyes on instruments. Don’t look out!
The Pacific, invisible, lies below.
Altimeter reads seven…eight…nine hundred feet…

A shock of blue—a cloudless sky.

Execute a 180, bearing due east.
Sunrays strike silver wings, turning them gold.
Oh to pull over, stop in mid air, drink it all in!

Below, murky black stuff;
Ahead, two snow-covered peaks,
Sunlight rising through the pass between them.

Above it all, a sleek P-38 flies on wings of gold.

© 2016 Sarah Byrn Rickman

This poem is inspired by, and dedicated to, Betty Huyler Gillies (1908-1998), second in command, Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, 1942-1944.
In an oral history recorded in 1996, Betty described her first flight in a P-38 twin-engine pursuit aircraft that she ferried from Long Beach, California to Newark, New Jersey.