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Tue, Dec 06, 2011

Gone West: WASP Betty Haas Pfister

Two-Time Winner Of All Women's International Air Race

One of aviation's pioneer women passed away November 17th. Betty Haas Pfister, who served as a WASP during WWII, died at her home in Aspen, CO, at the age of 90.

Smithsonian Image

Ms. Haas Pfister began her aviation career while a student at Bennington College in Vermont in 1942. According to a bio posted on the website of the Aspen Hall of Fame, she joined the WASPs in 1942, and ferried aircraft ranging from fighters to B-17 bombers as a 21-year-old woman. The New York Times reports that, after the program was shut down in 1944, she found work as an airplane mechanic and occasionally flew cargo planes, as well as becoming a flight instructor. In 1948, she became a flight attendant for Pan America Airlines, one of the few women in that role with more than 1000 hours PIC time in her logbook.

She purchased a surplus P-39 in 1946 for $750, and flew "Galloping Gertie" in air shows and races around the country. The airplane has since been donated to the Smithsonian, which loaned it to the Niagara Aerospace Museum in Niagara Falls, NY.

Among the awards and accolades bestowed on Ms. Haas Pfister were the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award, and induction in the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame in 1984. In 2010, she was one of the WASPs to attend the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Washington, D.C.

She married Art Pfister in 1954 and had three daughters.

Among her pilot ratings were commercial rotorcraft, gliders, and balloons. She founded the Pitkin County Air Rescue Group, a volunteer organization which assisted in SAR efforts for downed aircraft and skiers lost in the Colorado mountains. She was also the founder and first member of the Aspen Chapter of The Ninety-Nines

FMI: http://coloradoaviationhistoricalsociety.org/

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