New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame Inducts WAFS Dorothy Fulton
After a forty-year wait, Honey Fulton Parker is thrilled that – long overdue – her older sister Dorothy Fulton (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, WWII) has been recognized by her home state for her flying record par excellence!!!
Flying Over Teaneck She Loses Her Propeller!
Dorothy has quite a story. No pilot expects the propeller to drop off her airplane in mid-flight. But that is how nineteen-year-old Dorothy Fulton came to be hanging, without power, 2,000 feet in the air over populous Teaneck, New Jersey.
WAFS Dorothy Fulton
“I heard the motor ‘rev’ – that means speed up,” Dorothy told reporters later that day in June 1939. – Yes she did get back to the airport safely.
“I cut the switch. That’s drilled into us at school. I saw the propeller moving away from the ship. I should have been scared, but I didn’t have time. I lifted the wing so the loose propeller didn’t hit the plane. If I hadn’t, it would have torn the wing apart and I’d have crashed.”
The only thing keeping the plane in the air was what is called “lift” – the air flowing over and under the wings at different speeds. She was faced with gliding all the way to the airport.
It Was a Five Mile ‘Glide’ to Bendix-Teterboro Airport!
“I dropped the nose of my plane to keep up my flying speed – eighty miles an hour. We had learned how to glide at our flight school at Teaneck High School,” Dorothy told the reporters. The crankshaft that turned the propeller had broken in midair and sheared off.
“The only thing I was worried about was that it might have hit somebody. I’ve made plenty of forced landings before,” Dorothy told the reporters. That propeller actually ended up in a Teaneck, New Jersey, backyard on Bell Avenue. Dorothy did manage to hold the airplane aloft long enough to make it back to Bendix/Teterboro Airport – her home base – where she landed without further mishap.
Dorothy planned to go looking for the propeller the next day, but the man who lived in the Bell Avenue house retrieved it and sent it over to the airport where he figured it belonged.
Dorothy Shares Her Dream With Reporters
“I want to teach kids to fly. I want to offer courses, like we have here at Teaneck High, but all over the country. I want to teach the kids who can’t afford the expensive schools – to get up in the air and handle the airplane.”
World War II changed Dorothy’s plans, but she soon had the opportunity to use her well-honed flying skills for her country when it needed her. She was invited to apply for the WAFS, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, the first women’s squadron to fly for the United States in the war, 1942.
I met Dorothy’s “baby” sister, Honey Fulton Parker, back in 2004. A great, mostly long-distance, friendship began. Saturday, July 16, Honey and I “shared the stage” at the WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas. She was the featured speaker.
Honey and Sarah in Sweetwater
WASP Museum Sweetwater Honors Dorothy, July 16
The Museum was opening its newest exhibit, which features Dorothy Fulton. Honey was invited for the occasion. I was invited to join her because of our long-time connection through Dorothy and because of my advocacy for and writing about the WAFS. While there, the museum and I launched my new biography, Jean Landis WASP Pilot: 2,500 Miles…Long Beach to Newark in a P-51.
Honey and I had a great reunion – the last time we had seen each other was in March 2010 when the WASP/WAFS were honored. They received the Congressional Gold Medal*, given to civilians. The WASP/WAFS of course, WERE civilians during WWII, receiving their much belated militarization in 1977.
Honey captured our audience with tales of Dorothy’s life. Dorothy was no “shrinking violet”. She pushed boundaries, occasionally got in a bit of hot water, all the while flying the pants off any airplane the military asked her to fly. Today, they would lovingly call her a “bad ass.” Her favorite aircraft was the C-47 cargo/transport and she flew a bunch of them.
Nancy Love and Her WAFS’ Achievements Often Ignored
Nancy Love and her 27 WAFS and their contribution often is overlooked. All the women pilots – in August 1943 – became known as WASP. But too often the fact that Nancy Love and her WAFS came first is ignored.
Dorothy Fulton and the 27 others were the “high-time” (more than 500 hours) women pilots who began flying “for their country” in October 1942, a month before the flight training school for women opened. Eventually, 1,074 more women “learned to fly the Army way” first in Houston but most of them at Avenger Field in Sweetwater where “the girls” thrived!!!
I would urge you, if you are in Texas, take a trip to Sweetwater and view ALL the exhibits at the WASP WWII Museum. What a story!! And it is SO worth the effort.
The Congressional Gold Medal is bestowed by the United States Congress. It is highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions.
Thanks for reading my blog/newsletter! Hope you’ll give my books a try.