Women in Aviation
Betty Jean Thomas Schulz
Betty Jean Thomas Schulz wanted to learn to fly and saw Civil Air Patrol as the way to do it. Her son, Lt. Col. Wayne Schulz of the Oregon Wing, said she got the flying bug when her cousin took her for a ride in a Stearman while she was still in high school in Colorado. When CAP showed up on her radar in 1943, it was one of the few avenues open to civilians who wanted to learn to fly. Image (Betty Jean Thomas Schulz)
Though living in Portland, Ore., at the time, Schulz went to The Dalles, east of Portland, for her flight training. According to her son, her CAP work involved mostly practicing, getting her pilot’s license and moving CAP planes to where they were needed. During a solo student flight, while ferrying a CAP airplane, she had a close call when the throttle wouldn’t close completely on her first landing attempt. Her instructor, also a CAP member, was standing next to the runway watching her For Betty Jean Thomas Schulz, CAP was her ticket to fly. Citizens Serving Communities 5 www.gocivilairpatrol.com fly, and on a subsequent attempt he grabbed the plane’s strut as it went by, reaching into the cockpit and cutting the ignition. Her son, a CAP pilot himself now, said he “suspected there must have been a pretty good headwind for him to be able to do that.”
Even before her CAP days, Schulz had been doing her patriotic duty. Active with the United Service Organization, she helped raise funds for the war effort and eventually became president of the USO’s Portland Chapter. In fact, she met her future husband, who was transitioning from the field artillery to U.S. Army Air Corps pilot training, after a USO dance at Portland Air Base.
After CAP trained her as a pilot, Schulz hoped to join the newly established Women Airforce Service Pilots, a group of female pilots charged with assuming in-country duties to free up male pilots for work overseas. Despite heroic efforts to have a chiropractor “stretch” her, though, she didn’t meet the WASP’s height requirements.
Rita Carter literally grew up with CAP. She joined in 1942, when she was still in high school, and stuck with the organization throughout her life. A resident of New Hampshire, Carter took a high school class in aeronautics and started hanging out at Dillant-Hopkins Airport in Keene, home to more than one war hero. “They ignored me for awhile,” she said, “but I was totally entranced with the idea of flying.” Eventually a group of seasoned pilots emerged who became interested in helping young people get into flying, and they held a meeting at the airport terminal building to start a CAP squadron. Carter joined as soon as she could.
As a squadron member, she was required to take classes, sanctioned by the U.S. Army Air Forces and taught by an instructor from the local teachers college. Her first class was in parachute rigging. “I’m not too sure I’d want to use it,” she conceded, “but I did learn how to pack it.”
Flying as an observer during the war, she helped spot illegal burning that had the potential for sparking forest fires in the state, which had endured several years of drought at the time. Though she never owned her own plane, she was quick to settle on the Piper Super Cub as her favorite. “Flying felt like I was just putting on a comfortable sweater,” she said. Carter went on to marry and raise five children, working for CAP when she could, first for her squadron and later for the New Hampshire Wing. Now 85, she piloted her last flight in 1982, taking up a friend who wanted to get some aerial shots of his farm.
Already a pilot, Jean White joined CAP the month it was established and was assigned to a squadron in Sioux City, Iowa. She’d fallen in love with flying at age 13, but the country was still struggling after the Great Depression, and her father refused to give her the $5 it cost to ride in an airplane. Undeterred, White entered an essay contest marking the 20th anniversary of air mail. Her winning entry nabbed her a coveted flight from Omaha, Neb., to Washington, D.C., where she and other winners were honored.
“Actually, I lucked out all the way,” White said. She explained that she even got to learn to fly for free through the civilian pilot training program at Morningside College in Sioux City. “Colleges were given a quota for those who could participate in the program,” she said. “Morningside’s quota was 10, and I was the only female in the class.” While there, she earned her private pilot’s license.
She was prompted to join CAP because “it had something to do with flying, and you were automatically made a technical sergeant.” When the WASPs were organized not long after CAP was established, she, like Betty Jean Schulz, wanted to join but was also deemed too short. Instead, White used CAP as a stepping stone into the U.S. military, where she pursued a 26-year career.
Onita May Hoff
For Idaho mother and housewife Onita May Hoff, serving CAP was a family affair. Her husband, Mark, was a civilian pilot but too old for regular military service when World War II came to America’s shores, said their son, R.A. Hoff.
“Mom didn’t get her pilot’s license until 1948, but she went up for CAP as an observer,” he said.
The couple, who had five children — four of them born before the war’s end — flew in a Fairchild PT- 19 and Taylorcraft L-2, both CAP planes. They bought the Taylorcraft after the war, but it was later damaged in a landing accident. Their son still has the plane’s propeller.
Now 85, Flora Goodrich joined CAP not once but twice to serve America. As a young woman during World War II, she joined CAP while also working at the naval shipyard in Portsmouth, N.H., and volunteering with the USO.
Though she was taking flying lessons, the sudden departure of the adjutant led her commanding officer, Capt. John Palmer, to ask her if she would work in CAP’s Portsmouth office to maintain records and handle correspondence. She continued in that capacity until after the war.
Goodrich married, moved away and CAP slipped into her background. After her husband died in 1973, Goodrich eventually moved to Florida, where she was living on Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks of that day inspired her to search for CAP. She found a squadron at the local airport and joined again.
“My flying days were over, but I thought I could do something,” she said.