Pilots

Zoe Dell Nutter

December 1, 2005

The hangar that now houses Signature Flight Support at San Francisco International Airport used to belong to Butler Aviation. Before it housed Butler, the hangar stood on the grounds of the old airport (Mills Field Muncipal, renamed San Francisco Municipal in 1931). Zoe Dell Nutter (nee Lantis) remembers that hangar from 1937. Nutter was a 22-year-old dancer and model chosen to act as a spokes-person for the World's Fair held in San Francisco — she was called "a radiator cap girl" in reference to photos of her on the nose of the Douglas DC-3 — to attract Americans to use commercial aviation as passengers. The airplanes held mostly freight and mail, and few people, even if they had the means, would put up with the lack of creature comforts and basic safety that the fledgling airlines provided. But new airplanes like the DC-3 (see " 70th Anniversary of the DC-3," page 80) promised to change all that. The young spokesmodel toured the country, logging more air miles than practically anyone who wasn't a pilot.

Nutter learned to fly after World War II. Her favorite airplane is a Cessna 120, but over the years she flew many Cessnas and Pipers. Nutter was the Flying Ambassadress to the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle in 1961 and the New York World's Fair in 1964. She organized the Monterey Bay Chapter of The Ninety-Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots, with Helen Shropshire, in 1965, and in 1968 participated in the Powder Puff Derby.

Nutter moved to Xenia, Ohio, with her late husband, Erv Nutter — an engineer, pilot, and founder of Elano Corp., he designed critical parts for the jet engine. Nutter directed the promotion of the Small Aircraft Division of the company (one of her nicknames was "Zero Defects"), and served as one of its pilots before its purchase by General Electric.

"Get out there with what you've got because you never know how you'll get to use it," says Nutter. She has used that persistence to lobby Congress to place the National Aviation Hall of Fame museum within the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. And she has succeeded in grand form.


Additional information about the National Aviation Hall of Fame may be found on the Web site ( www.nationalaviation.org).