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99s MUSEUM OF WOMEN PILOTS
Women in Aviation in Oklahoma City

Amelia Earhart at Bust Museum of Women Pilots photoAmelia Earhart was born in Kansas, learned to fly in California, and disappeared in the South Pacific, so where is there an Amelia Earhart Road in Oklahoma? The state’s tie to the formative days of aviation is more tied to home state boy Will Rogers and his pilot pal Wiley Post. It is Will Rogers whose statue stands in from the freshly renovated Will Rogers World Airport of Oklahoma City which now bears his name, but in the land of the cowboy it is Amelia Earhart and women in aviation who are celebrated just off the boulevard leading from the airport named for the most famous American aviatrix.

WWII Transport Auxiliary photoThe 99s Museum of Woman Pilots is located on the second floor of the headquarters offices of the Ninety-Nines, on the grounds of the airport in a small business park within earshot of the landing and departing jet flights. The Ninety-Nines, an association of women pilots was formed in 1929, with Amelia Earhart as its first official president in 1931. The association was born out of the 1929 Women’s Air Derby nicknamed the “Powder Puff Derby” a competition of women pilots flying cross country from Santa Monica, California to the Cleveland Air Races, at the height of the era of the Bendix Prize and the Thompson Trophy. Amelia Earhart termed the air race opportunity, "A chance to play the game as men play it, by rules established for participants as flyers, not as women."

Louise Thaden wins Cleveland photoThe first all-women’s air race was won by Louise Thaden, with Earhart arriving third. Following the completion several of the flyers felt the need for a more official bond of camaraderie in the men’s world of flight, so Amelia Earhart, Gladys O'Donnell, Ruth Nichols, Blanche Noyes, Phoebe Omlie and Louise Thaden gathered under the grandstands at Cleveland Airfield to discuss the idea of forming an organization for women pilots. They decided any woman holding a pilot’s license should be able to join and sent out the word. In November of 1929, twenty-six of a total of eighty-six invited women aviators gathered at Curtis-Wright Field in New York and formed the organization. A number of names were suggested – the Gadflies, the Climbing Vines, Homing Pigeons, and even the Noisy Birdwomen, but Amelia Earhart and Jean Davis Hoyt prevailed on taking the name from the total number of charter members, the Eighty-Sixes at first, but then the Ninety-Sevens, and finally stopping at the Ninety-Nines. The organization's purpose would be good fellowship, employment opportunities, and maintaining files on women in aviation. The organization found its current home in Oklahoma City in 1999.

Amy Johnson Movie Poster photoAt the Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots, the visitor can explore the story of the organization and the history of women in aviation from the earliest days of flight up to the present. The core draw of the museum is the collection of Amelia Earhart artifacts belonging to the most famous of the woman flyers, including a pair of her leather goggles, scarves, and the lucky bracelet which she tellingly left behind before departing on her mysterious last flight and other memorabilia. But the museum is much more than all Amelia, featuring exhibits about the important role women pilots played in the development of aviation, with an archive of personal papers of the flyer members, photographs, scrapbooks, and historic artifacts that chronicle the rich history of hundreds of women aviators from the days of bi-plane to outer space. Exhibits cover the WASPs, organization of Women Air Force Service Pilots, the Air Transport Auxiliary of World War II, when it was women who ferried aircraft to the European war theater, today’s women combat pilots and astronauts. An audio-visual collection features the voice and scenes of women pilots talking about air racing, and their life in aviation. A flight simulator and hands-on activities gives kids a chance to explore in the “Learn To Fly” section.

Visiting the Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots

99s Women Pilot Museum at OKC airport photoThe museum located at 4300 Amelia Earhart Lane, just off the Meridian main road to the Will Rogers World Airport. The museum is open during business hours of the association headquarters, 10am to 4 pm Monday through Friday, closed on Weekends and Holidays. Admission is $5 for Adults, $4 Seniors and Military with ID, and $3 for Students, children under 4 are free. It is possible to walk to the museum from the airport terminal, but a bit too far for a quick stop, requiring a healthy hike. There is free parking. © Bargain Travel West

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Museum of Women Pilots

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