WASP training

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Pilots during physical training at Avenger Field, from For God, country, and the thrill of it : Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II. Courtesy of the University of Michigan via HathiTrust.


When Jacqueline Cochran sent out the call for women pilots to apply to the WASP program, she received 25,000 applications. Of those, 1,830 met the qualifications for training.

Trainees had to be American citizens between the age of 21 and 35 with a high school diploma. Qualified women pilots had to already have 200 flying hours (though it wouldn’t be long before women with no prior flying experience were considered). And, not only did the trainees need to pass an Army physical and written cadet exam, but they also had to be personally interviewed by Cochran herself.

Training took place at the Avenger Field flight school in Sweetwater, Texas, and Cochran was there to oversee it all. The women trained in lighter and smaller planes, but soon proved that they could fly every type of aircraft in the US military arsenal, including the heaviest bombers and fastest fighters.

During WWII, the WASP pilot training program graduated 1,074 women who flew at 126 bases across the country. Each WASP graduated with a commercial pilot’s license and an equivalent of a college aeronautical degree.