Sunday, February 25, 2007

Flying "Billie" Walsh

There was a Miss Wilma Walsh, better known to her friends as ‘Billie’ who, back in 1929, was a teacher at Belleville High School. But Billie was different than most other teachers, Billie had earned her pilots license. That was no small thing in those pioneer days of flying. Her ‘home base’ as a pilot was old Roosevelt Field in Garden City, Long Island. It was there where she got her flight training and with 60 hours of solo time to her credit, she received her ‘wings’, a coveted pilot’s license.

Roosevelt Airfield was named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt's son, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in air combat during World War I. It was the takeoff point for many flights that were important in the history of aviation. Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo transatlantic flight originated at Roosevelt Field. It was also used by other pioneering aviators, including Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post. Miss Walsh was in good company. At its peak in the 1930s, Roosevelt Field was America’s busiest civilian airfield.

Billie was as proficient at flying amphibian aircraft as she was at piloting land based aircraft. To her credit, she was the first pilot to successfully land a sea plane at the marine base at Newark Metropolitan Airport.

While vacationing in Europe in the summer of ’29, this resident of Van Houten Street, regarded as a very pretty aviatrix, flew as a passenger on such pioneer airlines as Imperial English Airways and Royal Dutch Airways. Her favorite personal aircraft was the high-powered, sporty ‘Bird CK’, an open cockpit biplane.

Here’s a 1929 photo of Miss Walsh with her own plane

Here’s a modern photo of a fully restored biplane, of the kind she piloted, a Bird CK