ACONE to honor first female shuttle pilot, commander

May 4, 2011

Flying a 360-degree pitch maneuver in a space shuttle is just one of the firsts credited to 54-year-old retired Air Force Col. Eileen Collins. She’ll be honored June 22 with the Aero Club of New England’s Godfrey L. Cabot Award for her efforts in the space program.

According to NASA, Collins was the first female shuttle pilot, flying the STS-63 Discovery in February 1995, and later became the first female shuttle commander in 1999 of the STS-93 Columbia. Collins also was a crewmember on the STS-84 Atlantis in May 1997 and STS-114 Discovery in July 2005.

A 1979 graduate of the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, she later served as a flight instructor and assistant professor of mathematics. She was tapped for the astronaut program while training at the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. She graduated from the school in 1990, according to NASA.

Collins has received many awards for her accomplishments in the Air Force and shuttle program, including NASA Space Flight Medals and the National Space Trophy.

The Aero Club of New England award is named for one of the club’s founders and longtime president and honors “individuals or teams who have made unique, significant, and unparalleled contributions to advance and foster aviation or space flight,” according to the club’s website.