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Legends of Aviation #9: Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran was one of the aviation pioneers during the 20th Century and a very prominent racing pilot of her generation.

She was the first woman to break the sound barrier and was an important contributor for the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and Women Airforce Services Pilots (WASP) during wartime.

Jacqueline was born under the name of Bessie Lee Pittman and changed her surname at the age of fourteen when she married Robert Cochran, but just after the end of their marriage she decided to use the name “Jacqueline”.

In 1930 she learned how to fly an aircraft just in three weeks and within two years obtained her commercial pilot’s licence. She was also the owner of Wings to Beauty, a cosmetic line and understanding the importance of the marketing for her brand, she flew her own aircraft around the country (USA) promoting her products! Her husband at that time who had really good connections in Hollywood and convinced Marilyn Monroe to wear her lipsticks.

Jacqueline was the only woman to compete in the Bendix race and one of three women to compete in the MacRobertson Air Race. In 1937 she achieved the new women’s national speed record, from here the title of “Speed Queen” and the year after she was recognised as the best female pilot in United States.

Cochran was also the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic bringing American built aircraft to Britain before the United States joined World War II as she was part of Wings for Britain, the organization that built the aircraft. She was a volunteer for the Royal Air Force in Great Britain and for several months worked for the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), recruiting qualified women pilots in the United States bringing them to UK where they joined the ATA. Jacqueline became a Flight Captain in the ATA.

Jacqueline and B.G. Chuck Yeager, receiving the “Harmon Trophy” from President Eisenhower

Thanks to her services during the wartime she won the Army Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 that was considered the most prestigious award from the government during those days. After the war she joined the US Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel, became colonel in 1969 and one year after she retired.

Jacqueline Cochran definitely had an affinity for business and her investment in the cosmetics field proved a lucrative one. This is why she was voted as one of the 25 outstanding businesswomen in America and named Woman of the Year in Business! But she was also a great aviation pioneer.

Brookfield Aviation is delighted to commemorate this wonderful pilot woman and we would like to have more women on board!

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