The Beatrice Municipal Airport was a stop-over point in this week’s Air Race Classic, which started Tuesday in Texas and concludes Friday in Maine.
Diane Bartels, a pilot and the Beatrice coordinator for the race, says a display inside the Beatrice airport calls attention to 75th anniversary of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.
“They were a group of women during World War II that flew the airplanes from factories to other modification points here in the United States either to training fields, like in the southern U.S., or to the East Coast,” Bartels says. “Then those brand new planes were put on a ship and taken over to the war theater.”
That participation by the women freed up men to fly in combat. Bartels has written a biography about Evelyn Sharp of Ord, one of the original group of WASPs, many of whom were Nebraskans.
“Twenty-five of those women, including Evelyn, proved to the war department that women were smart enough and brave enough to fly an airplane,” Bartels says. “I created a lasting memorial to these 19 women from Nebraska.” The monument was dedicated in 2010.
Sharp died at age 24 in 1944 when the P-38 Lightning she was ferrying had an engine explode on takeoff and crashed. She is buried in Ord Cemetery, not far from the town’s airport, what’s now known as Evelyn Sharp Field.
Bartels says the first woman’s air race, called the Woman’s Air Derby, started back in 1929. This year’s Air Race Classic, for single engine, piston-driven aircraft, will cover nearly 2,700 miles.
Thanks to Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice