While on a trip to Pensacola, FL recently to visit friends, I had time to stop in and visit the Airplane Discovery Park at the Pensacola Airport. It’s a neat little place for kids that has a mock runway and tower as well as some plaques about local aviators. Little did I know what I was going to discover- a dedication to Pensacola native and aviation pioneer, Ms. Betty Skelton.
What a find. I snapped a quick picture and promised myself to read more about her when I returned home.Betty Skelton was an athlete, daredevil, businesswoman, barefoot pilot, race car driver and volunteer astronaut in 1959. She was nicknamed the “First Lady of Firsts” and “Fastest woman on earth” and had a mind-boggling list of accomplishments. Life and Look Magazines were enamored with her, highlighting her determination and talents in all of the things she did.
But how many of us know about all of her amazing accomplishments? I am an aviator and honestly can’t say I had heard her name before this discovery. I couldn’t imagine soloing at 12 years old (illegally), flying a biplane upside down at 20 ft for the “inverted ribbon cut” or driving a jet powered car at 315mph with an open face mask. But she did it. Absolutely incredible. Why don’t we hear more about her? It’s a theory I have that we don’t like to remember these women because it doesn’t fit the narrative that women are not as strong or courageous as men. It saddens me when I think of all the amazing women like Ms. Skelton that fade out of our cultural memory. Thank goodness for these memorials, we need more of them though.
Reading about Betty Skelton has inspired me to be stronger, try new things and follow my passions- like she did. If more girls knew about the fearlessness that this brilliant woman possessed, I can only imagine how many more would be inspired to do more today. She was truly an example of courage and grit. I’m so grateful I stumbled upon a memorial to her.
With that all said- I probably still won’t try the “inverted ribbon cut”. Would you?
You can read more about Betty here:
#womenpioneers #bethechange #courage