Women’s History Month Shines Light on Pioneering Women in Aviation
March is Women’s History Month, when we honor women’s contributions throughout American history. There have been a myriad of females throughout history who have made monumental achievements. As a military parachute company, we are celebrating the legacy of Fay Gillis Wells.
Fay Gillis Wells was a pioneer aviator, journalist, and broadcaster. She fell in love with flying and in 1929 quit college to fly full time. Three days after making her first solo flight, she was invited to take a ride in an experimental aircraft while the pilot maneuvered through some aerobatics. While flying upside down the plane fell apart but Wells managed to survive with her Irvin parachute. She was the second woman to save her life by bailing out of a crippled airplane with a parachute. Her parachute jump to safety was reported in all the New York newspapers, and her survival made her one of the first females inducted into the Caterpillar Club.
What is the Caterpillar Club?
Our founder Leslie Irvin created the Caterpillar Club in 1922 to recognize individuals that had their lives saved by a parachute. To become a member of the prestigious club, you had to have used an Irvin parachute to bail out of a failing aircraft. Today, the Caterpillar Club is one of the most famous flying clubs in the world and has awarded thousands of men and women a gold caterpillar pin symbolizing the silk from which early parachutes were made. In addition to Fay Gillis Wells, its members include Charles Lindbergh, General James Doolittle and former astronaut John Glenn. Airborne Systems carries on the tradition set by Leslie Irvin by awarding each new member the coveted Caterpillar pin.
Airborne Systems is proud that one of aviation’s pioneering women is an esteemed member of the Caterpillar Club. Wells was an inspiration to other women in aviation and went on to accomplish a great deal in her lifetime. Wells worked alongside Amelia Earhart to establish the Ninety-Nines, an organization founded to support women pilots. In the 1930s she worked as an international correspondent and in 1963 she moved to Washington DC to report on the White House after her husband took over the Storer Broadcasting Company. She was just one of three women reporters to accompany President Nixon on his trip to China in 1972.
Throughout March, we will be celebrating other pioneering women of aviation and their many accomplishments.