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Born in Pensacola, Miss Cochran grew up in poverty in a foster home. At eight she went to work in a cotton mill in Georgia: she later was trained as a beautician and pursued that career in Montgomery, Alabama, Pensacola, Florida, and New York City, New York.
She took her first flying lesson in 1932 and soon mastered the technical aspects of aviation and navigation. In 1935, Miss Cochran became the first women to enter the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race. In 1937, she came in 3rd and in 1938, she won flying a Seversky pursuit plane. In 1941, she piloted a bomber to England and there, as a Flight Captain in British Air Transport Auxiliary, trained a group of women pilots for war transport service.
Upon return to the united States, she undertook a similar program for the Army Air Forces. In July 1943, she was named director of the Women's Air Force Service pilots - the WASPs - which supplied more than a thousand auxiliary pilots for the armed forces. At the end of the war, she served for a time as a Pacific and European correspondent for Liberty magazine. She became the first woman civilian to be commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves.
Eager to make the transition to jet aircraft, she became the first women to break the sound barrier in an F-86. In 1953, she set world speed records for 15,100 and 500 kilometer courses. She set an altitude mark of 55, 253 feet in 1961 and the standing women's world speed of 1,429 mph in an F-104G. In 1959 she became the first women president of the federation Aeronautique International. She was also a member of many other aviation organizations.
From Leadership: 2000 And Beyond, Vol. I, Civil Air Patrol, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
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