For Women’s History Month, Civil Air Patrol honors Louise McPhetridge Thaden, an early member of both CAP and “the Ninety-Nines.” Established in 1929 by 99 women pilots, members of the Ninety-Nines Inc., International Organization of Women Pilots, promote advancement of aviation through education and scholarships.
CAP’s national artist, Maj. Ron Finger, has depicted a historic aircraft similar to one Thaden flew during the 1940s.
Louise McPhetridge Thaden (1905-1979) began her aviation career in 1926 with her first solo flight and rapidly became a major figure in the aviation world.
Over the next 10 years she set air records in many categories and won numerous awards, culminating with the Harmon Trophy Award in 1936 as Outstanding Aviatrix of the Year. Thaden finished first in the inaugural the first Women’s Air Derby in 1929 and became the only woman to hold three aviation records simultaneously — altitude, endurance, and speed.
In 1936, she and her Beechcraft Staggerwing co-pilot, Blanche Noyes, became the first female team to win the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race, flying from New York to Los Angeles in just under 15 hours.
Thaden began her Civil Air Patrol service in the 1940s. After serving as squadron commander at Roanoke, Virginia, she later became CAP’s Mid-East Region women’s coordinator and chair of the CAP National Commander’s Training Committee.
In 1959, Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy appointed Thaden to the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Advisory Committee of Women in the Service. That same year, the CAP mission pilot got the chance to go a little faster and a little higher as she got her first jet flight in a New Hampshire Army National Guard T-33A Shooting Star.
Even better, the National Guard pilot was her son, Bill Thaden.
The Curtiss-Robertson Robin C-1 was one of the CAP aircraft flown out of Coastal Patrol Base No.16 in Manteo, North Carolina. Although Thaden was not a coastal Patrol member, she often flew the colorful “Robin” model, a popular choice for early aviators with its six-cylinder “Challenger” 170-185-horsepower engine.
The 1943 Disney insignia created for Base No. 16 featured a giant mosquito attacking a submarine with its proboscis. For whatever reason, the base never used the distinctive design.