When we talk about women who have represented milestones in aviation history, we typically imagine very different contexts to that of today’s society.
By that logic, we might think that when in 1938 the very young Mary Chance VanScyoc won the Women’s State Rifle Championship with a gun in hand, someone might have said to her “Forget about it, this is a man’s business!”. As a matter of fact, the fact that such a championship even had a female category in the first place shows that the world was already starting to change. But the war was just around the corner, threatening to thwart women’s dreams and conquests for many years to come.
Mary was the very first woman to graduate in aviation at Wichita State University, in Kansas, supporting herself by temping as a babysitter and continuing to remember her first flight on a Clyde Cessna as one of the most exciting moments of her life. Aeroplanes were far more interesting than weapons!
In 1942, Mary heard about an interesting job opportunity. Denver airport had recently started to interview women for the position as Air Traffic Controller. In Denver, Mary was a dedicated control tower operator, calculating air traffic data manually without radar or computer assistance.
Paper, pen, brilliance and a huge amount of precision. Mary immediately stood out for her talent and was soon admitted into flight school, becoming an instructor in less than two years due to her experience as a controller.
A versatile personality with a wide-ranging talent, Mary didn’t want to turn down the opportunity of becoming a wife and mother to three children, but she never neglected her passion for flight. She dedicated her entire life to teaching, training dozens of pilots and aviation students over the years.
When she was 64, she decided to write a new chapter into her life story by taking up helicopter lessons to learn to fly solo. According to those who were lucky enough to meet her, Mary Chance VanScyoc was an incredible woman. They say that she continued to fly any kind of aircraft she could get her hands on (including a Second World War bomber at the age of 74!) for as long as she was strong enough to do so.
If, like us, you’ve developed a passion for Mary Chance VanScyoc’s story, check out her book A Lifetime of Chances and let yourself be transported way over the clouds by an aviation pioneer.