‘WASP Pilots’ Series Wins Combs-Gates Award


Sarah Wins Second Combs-Gates Award

… and my THANKS to the National Aviation Hall of Fame for the honor!

The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) proudly reports that Sarah Byrn Rickman’s two-volume work, “WASP Pilots,”  has earned its author the 17th Annual Combs-Gates Award. The award is presented for projects that reflect an emphasis on the individual pioneers – the people – who defined America’s aerospace horizons. This is the second time Sarah has won the Combs-Gates Award. (See more below.)

The WASP Pilots Series, written for readers age 10 to adult, consists of two biographies: the World War II stories of two outstanding women pilots Nancy Love: WASP Pilot and BJ’ Erickson: WASP Pilot.

Love founded and commanded the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) — 28 experienced women pilots who flew as part of the U.S. Army Air Forces beginning in fall 1942. The 28 grew in time to 303 women pilots who ferried 12,652 military aircraft, logging more than 60 million miles during WWII.

Erickson commanded a squadron of approximately 75 women ferry pilots, attached to the 6th Ferrying Group, Long Beach, CA. She proved to be an exceptional leader and was one of Love’s most versatile pilots. She ferried a wide range of Army aircraft, including the four-engine B-17 bomber and all the WWII pursuit (fighter) aircraft.

Sarah received her  $20,000 cash prize on Tuesday, October 22nd, at the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) 72nd annual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (BACE) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sarah a Former Journalist

Sarah Byrn Rickman, who has a B.A. in English, Vanderbilt University, and an M.A. in Creative Writing, Antioch University McGregor (Ohio), is the author of nine books about the WASP. Before becoming a full-time author, Rickman worked as a reporter and columnist for The Detroit News, and later, as editor of two suburban Ohio newspapers. She has spoken on the WASP at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the National WASP WWII Museum and the Ninety-Nines International Conference; and for numerous other libraries and organizations. Rickman is a pilot. She flies a vintage tailwheel aircraft.

The Combs Award [the original title] grew out of a donation to the NAHF by the late Harry Combs, a 1996 Enshrinee of the NAHF. As part of a $1.3 million gift to help fund the creation of a NAHF research center, Combs stipulated that the Combs Award be established to encourage and support relevant aviation history research and preservation efforts. A panel of expert judges review each submission based upon criteria such as historical accuracy, creativity, potential for long-term impact, and value to the NAHF’s mission of honoring America’s outstanding air and space pioneers. 

Combs was instrumental to the growth and development of business aviation. Consequently, the NAHF partnered with the NBAA to host the award presentation at its annual meeting and convention, the largest business aviation event in the world. The inaugural award was presented at the Opening General Session of the NBAA’s 2003 convention, which was held in conjunction with 100th anniversary of the first powered flight. [The Wright Brothers, December 17, 1903, Kitty Hawk, NC]

The Gates-Combs Connection

John Gates and his sister, Diane G. Wallach, are co-trustees of the Gates Frontiers Fund, a foundation created by their late parents, Charles C. and June S. Gates. Mr. Gates, who passed away in 2005 at age 84, was former Chairman and CEO of the Gates Corporation, an avid multi-engine and helicopter pilot, and partner with Combs in several aviation businesses, including the Combs Gates FBO chain and Gates Learjet. This year marks the 17th year for the award and its 14th year with the name changed to reflect a multi-year commitment by the Gates Frontiers Fund to endow the award.

The award pays homage to Gates’ belief in the benefit of historic preservation to educate and inspire, and to Combs’ own research efforts behind his acclaimed 1979 book, “Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secrets of the Wright Brothers.”  — I have read Kill Devil Hill, a terrific account of Orville and Wilbur’s dream that became a reality. I highly recommend it!

Nancy Love: WASP Pilot and BJ Erickson: WASP Pilot are written with today’s young women in mind. Our young women NEED to hear the stories of this incredible, but little known, band of women flies in WWII. They were pioneers long before most women did such avant garde things as fly.  And these books are also good reads for older teens and adults. I do NOT write down to kids. I believe in challenging them to broaden their horizons. The books are simply less dense while still reflecting  noteworthy WWII stories.

Book Number Three Due in 2020

WASP Pilots is an ongoing series. The third book is written and in the early stages of its path to publication. I expect to it be out in 2020, from Filter Press, the publisher of the two Combs Gates Award winners. The Love and Erickson books are on Amazon and available from the publisher. Links below.

I am currently working on finding donor partners who will work with me to put these two books in the hands of girls enrolled in middle school STEM classes or aviation curriculums through the Civil Air Patrol, Charter Schools, Home School Consortiums, Scouting Programs, etc.

Oh yes: I also was the winner in 2009 for my body of work — five WASP books at that point — to write number six, my most ambitious and encompassing work to date: WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds. This book is the complete story of the 303 WASP [Women Airforce Service Pilots] who flew for Nancy Love and the Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command, USAAF of WWII.

Links for my books:

WASP of the Ferry Command 

Nancy Love: WASP Pilot 

BJ Erickson: WASP Pilot 

Thank you for reading my BLOG!!


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