Did you know that the WASP were not the only American women flying military aircraft during the war? In the spring of 1942, Cecil “Teddy” Kenyon, Barbara Kibbee Jayne, and Elizabeth “Lib” Hooker were recruited by Bud Gillies, head of testing and Flight Operations at Grumman Aircraft, to be the first women test pilots of naval aircraft in the US!
At that time there was a shortage of pilots, but Gillies, whose wife Betty was a pilot and a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), had tremendous faith in these women and in their abilities to get the job done. They had already been flying couriers for Grumman, and Gilles set them to work testing warplanes before shipping them off to the Navy for combat.
Their first assignment was to test the F6F Hellcat right off the assembly line. On that day, Grumman closed the airfield, telling personnel to go home in case “things didn’t work out”. Bud Gillies, however, invited the press and these women soon became media darlings.