Everywhere Bee Haydu goes, people thank her for serving her country. But it wasn’t always like this. For decades, Haydu and other women who served during World War II as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, were not properly recognized as veterans of military service. That changed in 1977, in part thanks to Haydu’s leadership. Haydu kept flying after the war, eventually giving it up in her late 70s after owning 18 airplanes.
Started in aviation… I didn’t go to college and I regretted that. One day I said stop feeling sorry for yourself. I took night courses, and one was in aviation. I took one lesson and I was hooked.
Entering service… I was a secretary in a defense business, but I wanted to do more. So why not be doing what I like to do and do my civic duty? More than 25,000 women applied to be WASPs, only 1,800 or so were accepted, and only 1,074 passed the training.
Life after the military… When they disbanded us it was, “Goodbye, girls. Thank you.” We had to pay our own way home. Afterwards I couldn’t get a job. So I got my CFI certificate and flew on my own. I later got a Cessna dealership and started a flight school.
Challenging flight… My first solo in the AT-6. I was approaching the first landing spot and I saw smoke coming out of the exhaust. I was thinking that if it got worse I might have to jump. But I decided I didn’t want the inquiry.
Best aviation experience… Winning my wings. It was at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. My mother and sister witnessed it.
Advice for students… Stay with it. It’s a challenge but it’s so worthwhile when you pick up that certificate. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it