Published On: Mon, Jul 1st, 2013

Lady Pilots of Houston – The Ninety-Nines’ Houston Chapter

By Kara Pound and Charles Simmons

This young lady learns about her airplane - from the bottom up!

This young lady learns about her airplane – from the bottom up!

During the history of flight, it has been primarily a male dominated endeavor. In 2013, while this may still be true, the balance may be changing as more and more women enter the arena. It is not uncommon today to see ladies in the cockpit of a fighter jet or airliner and just as many fly their own personal aircraft. This is due, in part to the efforts of organizations like The Ninety Nines.

In August of 1929, 26 years after the Wright Brothers flight in North Carolina, a group of aviation enthusiasts gathered for a nine day adventure that began in Santa Monica, California and ended in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the National Women’s Air Derby. After observing many of the ladies making sure they looked their best, Will Rodgers affectionately began referring to the race as the Powder Puff Derby and the name stuck. While all of them were beautiful these ladies were tough powder puffs.

Members live in 36 countries world-wide

Members live in 36 countries world-wide

The camaraderie that developed between many of the competitors during the race might have been the impetus for the beginnings of an organization that would begin a few months later in November, 1929. Of approximately 117 certificated female pilots at the time, 99 became charter members of a group that formed and called themselves “The Ninety Nines.”

You’ve come a long way baby!

Today, The Ninety Nines have grown to over 5000 members in 36 countries. Head-quartered in Oklahoma City the non-profit corporation works diligently to provide professional support and development for tomorrow’s women pilots. They accomplish this by hosting social events, encouraging a sense of camaraderie and providing for fellowship, and scholarships through their many local chapters.

Aviation Community News recently interviewed the 99’s current President in a separate article.

Read what Martha Phillips had to say here.

While the organization as a whole is thriving let’s not forget about our own Houston based chapter of the 99’s. They are an active and well known participant in the aviation community here.

Aviation Community News reporter Kara Pound chatted with 99’s Houston Chapter Chairman, Rose LePore.

Established in 1959, the Houston Chapter of the Ninety-Nines currently boasts 61 members ranging in age from 20 to 70 with a wide array of flight experience including helicopter pilots, glider pilots, commercial pilots, flight instructors, aerobatic and race pilots and even a “pilot” in the Houston Ship Channel – guiding ships in and out of the channel.

“When the chapter formed, there were 11 charter members,” explains 99s’ Houston Chapter Chairman, Rose Lepore. “From the very beginning, chapter members were involved in air racing from flying in the Powder Puff Derby [replaced by Air Race Classic] to international races that took them into Mexico as well as Central and South America.”

Educating a new generation of 99's

Educating a new generation of 99’s

Today, the 99s’ Houston Chapter members – based at West Houston Airport – are involved in aviation safety and aviation education for Girl Scouts and other various school groups. They also host a fear of flying seminar and raise money to support organizations like the Ninety-Nines’ Museum of Women Pilots and the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“The Houston Chapter is a group that actively serves the Houston Aviation community and is always looking for ways to expand that service and continue as an integral part of this community,” Lepore explains. “The gift of flight is one we all appreciate and love to share with others.”

The Ninety-Nines’ Houston Chapter meets monthly, on the second Tuesday of the month, at West Houston Airport. Membership information is available by contacting Sophie Thibodeaux at 281-391-2958 or garycharles1@consolidated.net.

To learn more about the Houston Chapter of the 99’s Click Here!

Suggested Reading:

1. The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus: The Story of Pancho Barnes

2. Yankee Doodle Gals: Women Pilots of World War II

3. Call Sign, White Lily

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