My 99s Conference With Daniel
July 16-21, I returned to Dayton, Ohio — my home for 36 years. A visitor this time, I was there to attend my first International Ninety-Nines conference. I took my 10-year-old grandson, Daniel, with me. Why? Like his gramma, he’s caught the aviation bug big time!
The Ninety-Nines, or 99s, is the International Organization for Women Pilots. We 99s date our existence from Nov. 2, 1929, when 26 licensed women pilots, including Amelia Earhart, met at Curtiss Field, Valley Stream, Long Island, to discuss forming a woman pilot’s organization. All 117 licensed female pilots in the U.S., as of that date, received a letter from that core group inviting them to join. Ninety-nine responded. The organization was chartered and the group took the name 99s as representative of their charter members. Their first president, Amelia Earhart. This is our 90th anniversary.
I joined the 99s in 2011 after I earned my pilot’s license. The membership requirements? You must be a woman and you must be a licensed pilot. I qualified.
My WASP Books an Influence
My WASP books have had a big influence on Daniel, plus his daddy is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel. We also live in Colorado Springs where aviation is BIG — the US Air Force Academy, Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases and the new National Museum of World War II Aviation.
Daniel’s and my trip to Dayton became a reality when I was asked to be a presenter at the conference. When I lived in Dayton, I belonged to the All-Ohio Chapter of the 99s. That chapter is part of the North Central Section of the 99s. Together, they hosted the conference. My WASP books and I were a known quantity to them. Honored by the invitation, I immediately said “yes.” AND, I was invited to sell my books at the Author’s Corner and at the conference Fly Market.
We Sold All Our Books!
My other job while attending was to serve as my chapter’s voting delegate. I now belong to the Pikes Peak Chapter — South Central Section of the 99s. A quick plug: we are one of the fastest growing chapters right now, boasting an influx of younger members. I was the only member of our chapter attending the conference. Not a surprise. They all have day jobs! I’m my own boss and I gave myself the time off.
Our highlight was our two trips to the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force, aka the Air Force Museum. Having spent many an hour there when I lived in the Dayton suburb of Centerville, this was my first time back since the fifth hangar has been added. Already big, the museum is now huge and remains totally fascinating!
Visiting the ‘Memphis Belle’
Daniel and the ‘Memphis Belle’
Seeing the “Memphis Belle” topped Daniel’s list. Already I had introduced him to the iconic wartime survivor — the B-17 that successfully completed 25 missions over Germany early in World War II, then returned home to the U.S. to lead our country’s Liberty Bond Drive in late 1943 and 1944. Daniel already has a model in his room.
When I heard the museum would have the restored aircraft on permanent display, I knew we both had to see it. As part of the 99s conference group we were treated to an informative lecture on the Memphis Belle, its story and its restoration. And we saw her in person.
As our guide all day Wednesday July 17 — as well as for our repeat visit the afternoon of Sunday July 21 — we had my long-time friend Judith Wehn, who served as Education Director at the NMUSAF for 31 years and just recently retired. If ever there was an individual with not only the story, but also the backstory, of the museum and its exhibits, Judith is the one. Daniel and I got full benefit of her knowledge and sense of humor, making the exhibits come alive. In our very full 1½ days we saw the entire museum! And that’s a trek!!!
Seeing the D-Day Exhibit
Daniel did the iPad-like tour of the D-Day exhibit and Judith and I followed him, taking it all it. He rode simulators. He walked through every aircraft we had access to, including the Presidential aircraft. He sat in every fighter cockpit available.
Thursday night, the Amelia Earhart Scholarship Awards banquet was held under the wings in the new fifth hangar. We dined looking at Air Force One.
Our theme was: The Wright Way to Dayton, the Birthplace of Aviation — the home of the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur. All this on the occasion of the Ninety-Nines 90thanniversary 1929-2019. All the aviation-related historical sites in my former hometown were open and available to my 200 fellow 99s attending, with tours scheduled over 3½ days.
(Left) Daniel: one hot pilot! (Right) Daniel and I visit D-Day exhibit.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Daniel’s and my adventures in Dayton last month. And I hope you are reading and enjoying my WASP books as well. Among them: The Originals, also BJ Erickson: WASP Pilot and Nancy Love: WASP Pilot.
Thanks, Sarah Byrn Rickman