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Jacqueline “Jackie” Cocran

First Woman to Break the Sound Barrier


“At the time of her death on August 9, 1980, Jacqueline Cochran held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other pilot, male or female, in aviation history. Her career spanned 40 years, from the Golden Age of the 1930s as a racing pilot, through the turbulent years of World War II as founder and head of the Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program, into the jet age, when she became the first female pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound. She was a 14-time winner of the Harmon trophy for the outstanding female pilot of the year and was accorded numerous other awards and honors in addition to the trophies she won with her flying skills.”

-National Air & Space Museum Exhibit, Smithsonian Institution 1981

Jacqueline Cochran was born to a childhood of poverty in the South, but with courage, intelligence and determination she established a highly successful cosmetics business and became one of the most prolific record setters in aviation history. Her aviation career began in 1932 when she earned her pilot?s license after three weeks of instruction at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York. After competing in the 1934 MacRobertson England to Australia air race, Miss Cochran was respected for her competitive spirit and high skill.

In 1937, Jacqueline Cochran received the General Billy Mitchell award for her contribution to the progress of aviation in the United states. In 1937 she won the first of 15 Harmon Trophies for three speed records and one long distance flight. Jackie was the first woman to win the famous Bendix transcontinental air race from Los Angeles to Cleveland. A half century was to elapse before Jacqueline Cochran was depicted as a pioneer pilot by the United States Post Office on a fifty cent airmail stamp.

Jacqueline Cochran went on during World War II to become a special consultant to the Army Air Force Chief of Staff. In 1945 she was awarded the Distinguished Service Metal as director of the WASP ? the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who flew over 60 million miles in war time.

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