Pilots dedicate garden, celebrate history

Museum of flight display honors women fliers

Pilots dedicate garden, celebrate historyStaff report Santa Maria Times

One hundred years of women’s aviation history was celebrated Saturday at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight as the Ninety-Nines Memorial Garden was dedicated.

The Santa Maria Valley chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, hosted its Southwest Section meeting this weekend.  It’s the fourth time the Santa Maria Valley has hosted the sectional meeting and the first time since 2007. The Southwest Section includes pilots from California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Utah.

The garden and an exhibit inside the museum honoring World War II WASPs (Women Air Service Pilots) were the center of attention Saturday for the more than 100 women pilots who attended.

Dedication of the garden completed a two-year effort by the Santa Maria Valley Ninety-Nines. The garden features memorial bricks and benches dedicated to friends of aviation.

The focal point of the garden is a mural and storyboards depicting the pioneers of women’s aviation history from Harriet Quimby, the first licensed woman pilot in America, to the women who flew on the space shuttle.

Former astronaut Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, who now leads 14th Air Force and Joint Functional Component Command for Space at Vandenberg Air Force Base, spoke during the dedication ceremony Saturday. Helms was the first U.S. military woman in space.

Santa Maria Valley Ninety-Nines vice chair and renowned artist Sunni Gibbons spearheaded the mural project.

September 09, 2012 •  Santa Maria Time Staff report