Q: Tell me about the tests on equipment.|
Well they wanted to decide whether this pair of gloves, this jacket, these
boots were better than these others for cold temperatures and high altitude and
general flying for women, so we tested these in the nose of a B-17 at 43,000
feet. It was especially equipped to go that high -- because they don't
usually -- and so we were dressed in all this stuff and all around us were ice
crystals and we couldn't see out the windows be they were all iced up.
But then we had to test these things in open cockpit planes. So we flew each
other in these planes with all this stuff on. Then we also went in the
pressure chamber, you know that big thing they can take you up to 25,000 feet
and we were shown how we thought we were in grand shape at 25,000 feet but we
couldn't even spell our own names when asked! So that was to show us how
dangerous it was to not use oxygen over 10,000 feet. Also we had to design a
relief tube for women. And they brought a female engineer in to discuss this.
So we discussed the various aspects of this and drew up a model that would fit
in with the men's relief tube. And we thought that's the last
we'd hear about it but I heard about it later, after I had been at
Wright Field for quite awhile. I think that's about all we did then. And then
when we were told we could go back, the other girl decided that she didn't want
to and so then I really became a part of fighter flight test at Wright Field
rather than the WASPs. I never saw another WASP while I was there. I
communicated with them and we always hoped that one of them would stop there,
but it was a whole different thing.
Q: It must have been overwhelming.
Well, it certainly was. It's hard to believe that I was there. When I was
introduced to the other pilots in fighter flight test, after the experience at
Camp Davis, it was a shock to find that they were very cordial. The whole time
I was there, they encouraged me and had me fly as co-pilot with them and
advised me. They were just absolutely the cream of the Air Force. Perfectly
wonderful. And they'd all been ex-combat pilots and then at Guano Canal and
all sorts of terrible places, and a lot of them were aeronautical engineers as
well. So, it was certainly a high level job. So doing the operations officer
work I learned what they were doing and also learned how the planes were
allotted and how the tests that were on them, and a lot about testing airplanes
for speed and maneuverability and safety. So instead of being tested . .
.whether you could fly airplanes now I was testing the airplanes to see whether
it was up to par. I always felt like we were sort of like doctors having to
judge how this patient was doing up in the air. But it was a fascinating place
and fascinating things were going on there. This was the place where, as I
say, all the Air Force planes were tested and any change that the manufacturer
made had to also be tested out. And they were tested to their limits and
especially for speed, we're approaching the speed of sound and this was
one of the tasks that they were working on, trying to get airplanes faster,
would go higher, go farther, for the war effort.
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