Women Airforce Service Pilots View Restoration of Historical Aircraft

WASPs by Cochran plane.
WASPs honorees Bee Haydu, Kay Hilbrandt, Marty Martin Wyall, Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds  and Nell Stevenson Bright pose by plane once owned by their former Director Jackie Cochran.

FORT WORTH, Texas (May 22, 2015) – In keeping with its commitment to promoting excellence, Tarrant County College today recognized six Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) the first women to fly American military aircraft and arguably, individuals who forever changed the role of women in aviation.

Leaders from the community and aviation industry paid tribute as the WASPs viewed the Beechcraft E18S-9700, the personal plane of Jacqueline Cochran, founder and director of the WASP program.

“This Beechcraft will always serve as a symbol of women’s huge contribution to careers in aviation and to our country,” said TCC Northwest Campus Divisional Dean Clint Grant.  “Once the restoration is complete, it is our hope that this aircraft will serve as a beacon to attract other women to a career in aviation.”

WASPs served with honor and distinction, flying 60 million flying hours in direct support to the United States during WWII. Among them were today’s honorees: Nell Bright, Class 43-7; Shutsy Reynolds, Class 44-5; Shirley Kruse, Class 44-6; Bee Haydu, Class 44-7; Kay Hilbrandt, Class 44-10; and Marty Wyall, Class 44-10.

Restoration Team w WASPs
Visiting WASPs pose with volunteers helping to restore Cochran’s former plane. The team is led by Curt Landrum, back row, right.

Curt Landrum, a retired TCC associate aviation professor and current adjunct instructor, is leading a team of volunteers restoring the aircraft that TCC acquired in 1985. Restoration efforts began during the summer of 2012 with about 12 volunteers who worked most Saturdays and secured donated parts and materials whenever possible.

With more than 2,500 hours logged to the restoration project, Landrum estimates it will take approximately 20,000 more hours and about $350,000 in funding to restore the Beechcraft E18S-9700 to its former glory. While companies, such as Parker Hannifin – Stratoflex Hoses, Field Tech Instrument and Avionics and Teledyne Aircraft Batteries, have generously donated parts, a significant amount of work remains and funding is waning.

“Once completed,” says Landrum, “TCC intends to fly the aircraft to National WASP World War II Museum at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, each year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.”

For more information on the Beechcraft restoration project, visit http://blogs.tccd.edu/beechcraft. To donate to the restoration efforts, contact Liz Sisk, donor relations officer, at 817-515-5376, liz.sisk@tccd.edu.  Be sure to mention the donation is for the Beechcraft Restoration.

About Tarrant County College
Serving more than 100,000 students each year, Tarrant County College is the nation’s 16th-largest higher education institution. As a comprehensive two-year college, TCC offers a wide range of opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds, including traditional programs, such as associate degrees, Community & Industry Education courses, workshops and customized training programs. The College has six campuses throughout Tarrant County, including the newest virtual campus, TCC Connect, which provides online courses and Weekend College. TCC also assists employers in training their workforces with its TCC Opportunity Center. TCC is one of only 79 Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges in the nation, earning the distinction during its first year of eligibility.

Nolan High School student Gabby Hyde gets the autograph of WASP Shutsy Reynolds as WASP Mary Wyall looks on.
Son of WASP shakes hands with honoree.
Jeff Buehner, son of WASP Betty Jane Bachman (Buehner), Class 43-2, shakes hands with WASP Shutsy Reynolds, 44-5, flanked by fellow WASP honorees. A photo of Buehner’s mother being pinned by Jackie Cochran is on the last page of the TCC commemorative brochure.