Nancy Love: WASP Pilot — Chapter Two

“Here’s another sneak preview for your enjoyment,” Sarah

It Was Not Love at First Sight

Bob Love was five-feet, eleven-inches with sandy red hair, a broad nose, and a wry sense of humor. He owned Inter City Aviation, a flight service out of East Boston.

Bob had attended Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but aviation so distracted him that he never finished college.

With financial help from his older sister, in 1932 he founded Inter City Aviation to offer instruction, charter flights, aerial surveying, and an unscheduled passenger service. He also sold airplanes and earned a commission from the aircraft manufacturer.

When Nancy Harkness and Henry Wilder arrived at the ICA office, Bob was away picking up an airplane.

Henry ushered Nancy into Bob’s office, deposited himself in Bob’s chair and put his feet up on Bob’s desk. Nancy boostedherself onto the desk, crossed her legs, and picked up her conversation with Henry.

Enter, Bob Love

Fifteen minutes later, the door banged open and a man in grease-stained flight coveralls strode in.

A leather flight helmet and goggles dangled by their straps from one hand. He ran his other hand through his hair, mashed flat from wearing the leather helmet. His cheeks were wind-burned. Blue eyes looked out from raccoon-like white circles, the result of goggles worn when flying an open cockpit airplane.

He took in the scene in one glance. Perched on his desk in his office, obviously in deep conversation with his friend Henry Wilder, was a beautiful young woman.

She glanced up and smiled when he walked in, but she made no move to get off the desk.

He ordered his friend out of his chair and the woman off his desk.

For Nancy, a chance to be around airplanes all day everyday was what that awful stint in secretarial school and all that tomato soup had been about. Now this rude man had the nerve to order her around like some junior flunky.

Nancy Walks Out

She slid gracefully from the desk, shot him a withering look, and, mustering all her dignity, walked from the room. She slammed the door, leaving Henry to do the explaining.

Eventually, Henry came out, looking sheepish, and asked her to come back in the office. Bob Love, disagreeable as he had sounded, really did want to meet her.

Nancy desperately wanted a job in aviation. She had come here to meet this Bob Love person. Why pass up the opportunity? Just because he was testy, didn’t mean she had to be. She took a deep breath and nodded at Henry. With every ounce of dignity she could muster, she re-entered the ogre’s office.

Bob Love hired the attractive Miss Harkness. Not long after, an article appeared in New England Aviationheadlined “Woman Flier Given Praise …To Demonstrate Waco Line.” [ The aircraft manufacturer Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio is best known by its initials — WACO.]

“She’s Not Just Somebody That Flies”

“She’s OK. She’s not just somebody that flies,” Bob Love was quoted as saying. The article went on to say that:

Miss Harkness is a transport pilot and in the future will demonstrate the Waco line of airplanes to prospective customers. She has been flying for four years. … She is quite reserved but like all pilots warms up to the topic of flying so eventually some of her past experiences come to light. … It is anticipated that when this latest employee of the ICA becomes a little better acquainted she is going to be more than busy with her gray demonstrator which by the way is the only ambulance plane in New England.

Her job with Bob was demonstrating and selling airplanes on a commission basis. She earned money each time she sold a plane. She was also the airport “Girl Friday” or all-purpose assistant.

On September 10, an article appeared in the Houghton, Michigan, newspaper stating that pilot Robert Love of Boston, Massachusetts, and well-known local aviatrix Miss Nancy Harkness, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. R.B. Harkness, had flown into the local airport in a Waco cabin plane.

Nancy was taking Bob home to meet Mother and Daddy.

By early 1935, changes were in the air. Two well-known women pilots, Phoebe Omlie and Louise Thaden, with timely support from the world’s most famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart,had convinced the chief of the Airport Marking and Mapping Section of the Bureau of Air Commerce that towns and cities needed to be easily identifiable from the air.

No Highways in the Sky

There were no established airways — designated highways in the sky — like we have today. Planes didn’t have radios. Getting lost was frighteningly easy, even for an experienced pilot.

Omlie’s solution was to mark off each state in sections of twenty square miles. Paint the name of the town on the roof of the most prominent building. Place markers at 15-mile intervals between towns. She and Thaden built the project from scratch. Then they hired two rising young stars among the available female flyers, Nancy Harkness of Boston and Helen MacCloskey of Pittsburgh, to share the workload.

Going to work for the well-known and respected women flyers Thaden and Omlie meant leaving Inter City Aviation and Bob, but it was a big boost for Nancy’s aviation career.

Omlie returned to her job with the Bureau of Air Commerce. Louise, Nancy, and Helen’s job was to convince towns’ leaders to hire out-of-work men to paint the signs.

Nancy’s first day at work was September 14, 1935.

Soon after, an interview with Nancy appeared in the Boston Post. She told the reporter,  “I love it. It’s really useful work in the field of aviation and I get lots of chances to fly. Two other girls have similar jobs. … I have from Maine to Florida and Michigan and Ohio.”

The article went on to say:

But Miss Harkness, who is barely over 20—and very pretty—can smile wisely to herself. For now she wears a sizable and very sparkling diamond ring on her left hand and she is engaged to the president of Inter City Airlines, Robert Love, son of a New York banker.


Nancy Love WASP Pilot from:

By Sarah Byrn Rickman

Release date: May 25, 2019

Order now and enjoy!


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