Mary Feik Aviation Engineer


   Mary Feik was an aviation wonder that most people don’t know. I want to bring her out of the shadows as I have done with so many women pilots. I learned about Mary when I was at the Historic Flight Museum. Our docent was fabulous. He is the one who mentioned Mary Feik. I had never heard of Mary before so I thought I’d write about her.

 She became an aviation engineer, a mechanic, pilot, and plane restorer. WOW! A women in a man’s world. I call my blog They Fly In A Man’s World. Mary really fits that title. How did she become this accomplished women.

 Mary was born in 1924 before Lindbergh’s historic flight. By the time she was seven she saw a barnstormer fly in the skies of Cleveland, Ohio where she was born. The pilot flew a Jenny, the most common plane of World War 1. After the war pilots and planes were unused so they soon were used by barnstormers. This pilot made his living by flying from town to town and gave flight to local residents. Usually they charged $5.00 for this ride. This was the only way the pilots could earn some money. After this flight Mary couldn’t take her eyes off the sky. She was only seven at this time but Mary knew that she wanted to be a pilot. She found her passion.

Mary Feik’s Acheivements:

  • Age 11 learned welding

  • Took apart a car engine at age 13

  • Teacher of aircraft maintenance

  • More than 6,000 hours of flight

  • Pilot of P-51, P-47, P-63 planes

  • Test engineer 

  • Restoration specialist at the Paul E. Garber Restoration Facility in the National Air and Space Museum

  • Her important restorations: 1910 Wiseman-Cooke plane, WW1 Spad X111 fighter, and a 1930 Northrop “Alpha” mail plane. She also restored Betty Skelton’s “Little Stinker” plane. 

  • Colonel in the Civil Air Patrol

  • Member of the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame

  • Maintenance teacher for the US Army Air Corps

  • First woman engineer for the USAF Air Technical Service Command

  • First women to receive to receive the FAA Taylor Master Mechanic Award

  • Award of the Katherine Wright Trophy

   Readers will wonder why I mentioned so many organizations. I listed these for aviation experts but also for myself. I looked up every plane, place and honor. Why? I told you that “I want to know everything about everything,” I enjoy learning maybe not about everything. That’s impossible.

   I love aviation but I also love to read about strong women… like me! I have said this before. I hope that you read my “About Page” and my post “More About Me.” Then you will learn about my interests and why I think I am a strong woman. I am not accomplished like Mary Feik and so many others but I hope you still like my stories about women in aviation. 

   On June 10, 2016 Mary Feik died at her home in Annapolis, Maryland. On that day America lost an aviation legend.

 What a lady! I am glad to bring the story of Mary Feik out of the shadows. 





Palwaukee Airport with Vicky, my Brother and Me

WOW! Me…Flying the Plane

Vicky flew out of Palwaukee Field in 1932. I don’t know if she took lessons there  airport.  She was a member of the Aviation Country Club but my research said that The Aviation Club was at a different airport in the northern suburbs in the of Chicago. I really don’t know if any of this information is true. I wish I was there when she flew at Gauthier’s Flying Field located at the crossroads of Palatine Road and Milwaukee Avenue about eighteen miles from Chicago.

As of June 2017, there 194 planes at the Palwaukee including two jets like the Bombardier Challenger and the Gulfstream command and five helicopters. There are three fixed-based national operators…Signature Flight Support, National Global Aviation Services, and Atlantic. There are also smaller companies…Priester Air Charter and Palwaukee Flyers. A fixed-base operator offers services like fueling and flight instruction. Sometimes aircraft come to the airport when they bring military men to Great Lakes Naval Training Center and the Veterans Affairs hospitals in the Chicago area.

In 1953 George J. Priester developed the airport and owned it for 33 years. He installed paved runways, lighting, hangers and an air tower for air traffic control. In 1900 I met with George’s son Charles. It was my first in person interview and I don’t remember. I haven’t interviewed anyone since college. I had many questions prepared even though I wasn’t a pilot. I was just excited the to see planes take off and land. I was more focused on that then asking questions. Crazy, I guess…but that’s me.

George Priester died in Des Plaines and is survived by many grand children and great=grandchildren. I live near that community and I will let you know any more information I might find out.

About five years ago I went to the airpot to see a group called Young Eagles where they received a free flight. Young Eagles is found at airports all over the country. It is sponsored by The Experimental Aviation Association. “Sully” Sullenberger, John Travolta and Harrison Ford were former chairmen of the Young Eagles.

I was too late to see the kids take off and land. I felt disgusted but I hung around and talked to a few people. country kids receive free flight lessons.. I wish I was one of those kids and could join this fabulous group.

Maybe, you are wondering why I am telling you about the history of Palwaukee Airport. It makes me recall my memories connected with the airport. One memory was that my brother, Bruce took flying lessons at the airport. I remember my mom drove him to the airport before he could drive. He told me that his interest in aviation started when he went up in a neighbors plane. He took lessons at Palwaukee with Sally’s Fling School. Sally Strempel was a pioneer in aviation and The Federal Aviation Administration appointed her as one of five women flight instructors in the country.  She claimed that “she flew that she flew over a million miles without scratching an airplane.”

Sally Strempel, a resident of Des Plaines, Ilinois and died in 2017. I will try to find more information about Ms. Stempel and her flying experiences in World War 11 and at Palwaukee Airport.

Bruce worked at Sikorsky which  is a well-known name in aviation. The company focused on the manufacturing of land planes and amphibious aircraft and invented the first practical helicopter.

Then Bruce worked at Boeing for more than 40 years. Now he is retired and volunteers as a docent and a researcher at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

The helicopter makes me think of more family lore about Vicky. I don’t know if the following information is true or not. Vicky flew an auto gyro… the precursor to a helicopter. Did she fly it at Palwaukee …who knows.

My brother asked me what wanted for my birthday. You can guess my answer. I told him I wanted an introductory flight lesson from Windy City Flyers Flight School. I was so excited when the pilot showed me the Chicago Skyline and then went over the far north suburbs. I took this lesson a long time ago but it feels like yesterday. I sat in the co-pilot’s seat and really flew the plane. I mean the pilot flew it.

Another memory: I brought my first computer and it took me three months to decide what to buy. When I took my flying lesson I didn’t ask ANYTHING. I didn’t know or care what was the name of the pilot or what was his experience. I JUST JUMPED INTO THE PLANE AS IF I HAD FLOWN ALL MY LIFE.

After this flight I decided to ask about flying lessons. I went to Palwaukee and talked to a salesperson even though I knew I didn’t have the money. I was thrilled to hear the information and went home with dreams in my mind and heart. My brother thought I was crazy to bother anyone. I disagreed.

I thought if I couldn’t take lessons I would still do the next best thing. I would learn how to fly…only on the ground. I meet a lady who worked at Windy City Flyers and asked her how I could accomplish this goal. She was kind to loan me VHS tapes which would teach me the basics of flight. I didn’t understand the tapes but I keep watching them. I returned the tapes and wondered how to learn more. Then I decided to  learn from childrens books on flight.

After this I joined a group called PACE at Palwaukee. It was a liaison group between the airport and the surrounding communities. I felt so important even though I only went to a few meetings.

Then I went to Palwaukee to see the The Young Eagles. At Palwaukee and many other airports across the country kids receive free flight lessons. The group is sponsored by The Experimental Aviation Association. “Sully” Sullenberger, John Travolta and Harrison Ford were former chairmen of the Young Eagles. Unfortunately, I was too late to see the kids take off and land. I was so disappointed but I stayed around and talked to a few people and wished that I was one of those kids.

On May 8, 2017 Chicago Executive Airport was received the honor of being named the Reliever Airport of the Year. A Reliever Airport is a designation by the FAA. It is an airport that doesn’t have scheduled airline passenger service. It helps take traffic away from crowded airports like O’Hare in Chicago.

You can see how my interest has continued. I read books about aviation and even wear aviation themed clothing. I plan to go to Palwaukee and relive my memories at the end of  the month and take a tour of the airport. I’ve taken it before but I plan to go again…only this time with a walker. Why not go…difficult probably…SO WHAT! Anything for my passion. I wish Bruce were here to go with me but it’s a long walk from Seattle. None of my friends are remotely interested in planes but maybe I can talk one into taking me…or I’ll just go by myself.

Today I called Palwaukee and asked if the the women I meet still works at Windy City Flyers. Bingo…she does and I got her email. I’m going to email her and see if she remembers me. I think that would be so cool. Never know.

I also called the airport and left a voice mail asking about PACE and if Michael Haupt was still a volunteer withe this group.. See, they have nothing to do but answer my rambling voice mail. I’ll let you know if any of these mysteries get solved.

On May  8, 2017 The Department of Transportation named Chicago Executive Airport as the Reliever Airport of the Year. A Reliever Airport is one that doesn’t have regular passenger service. It helps take traffic away from large airports like O’Hare and Midway.

On the Chicago Executive on the Internet I can listen to the control tower. I feel like I’m there! Fun is different for everyone… for me it’s airplanes and airports.

Friends ask me if I love aviation and the answer is yes. I say it’s a family thing and it’s MY THING!

I hope you have enjoyed traveling along memory lane with Vicky, Bruce and Me….

Wishing You Blue Skies and Calm Winds.






More Facts About Vicky

unknown man …maybe on a ship that Vicky took to Europe.

My research said that Vicky was a bush pilot in Juneau. If she was she would have had a hard time. There were very few women pilots in the 30′ in the US let alone Alaska. I will write the Juneau Historical Society and see if they have any records about her. Other research said she was a waitress. Who knows. Another mystery about Vicky.

Vicky was a risk taker and courageous.  I think that she was not afraid of danger or the unknown. These were the character traits of other women pilots. Vicky took flying lessons at Roosevelt field and stayed the Roosevelt Field Hotel. It was a place for dancing in the huge ballroom. It’s funny but I can picture so much about Vicky but I wish that I had asked my parents about her. But that wouldn’t have worked. My mom really didn’t like her. At the hotel they could eat outside on warm sunny days. The eating area overlooked the field and they could watch the planes land and takeoff. Roosevelt Field was the most famous airfield and everything was made for the pilots safety. The field had asphalt runways so was the perfect place to learn to fly.

When women started flying in great numbers people wondered if flying was safe for women. Are they physically fit? Instructors wondered if women could learn because their lack of mechanical knowledge. Women learned to fly for sport. They believed, it was a wholesome sport and adventure. But others took the idea of flying as serious business. They wanted to learn. But after getting their license they were restricted in finding jobs. Most women ended up selling planes, or writing writing about planes. Maybe Vicky was one of the women who didn’t care what men thought. She just wanted to fly.

When her husband walked out on her Vicky reported Ward missing two years later in 1927. She looked for Ward on her own for 2 years because she didn’t want the publicity. When the police were alerted they tried to talk to Wards mother Mrs. Anna D. Lederer, his sister Catherine Durant…neither would give any information to the police. Vicky stayed temporarily at the Hotel Manager. Vicky didn’t want to live on the family’s charity but she sure changed her mind.
It was such a mystery where Ward was living but she was tired of looking for him. Vicky said “Now I am neither unmarried or married. (New York Times, April 4, 1927)
Ward wasn’t honest with his own wife. Now could he marry another woman and not give Vicky the courtesy of divorcing Vicky. She loved the parties the drinking, and the high life but she loved Ward more. Vicky made herself so sick that she couldn’t work and she didn’t know how she would survive. She decided that she had to accept the money from Wards family. It was then that she went traveling and then learned to fly. When the world was in crisis Vicky lived well.


Powder Puff Race of 1929

Heavy Class; 

  1. Louise Thaden
  2. Gladys O’Donnell
  3. Amelia Earhart
  4. Blache Noyes
  5. Ruth Elder
  6. Mary Haizlip
  7. Opa; Kunz 
  8. Mary Von Mach
  9. Vera Dawn Walker

Light Class: 

  • Phoebe Omalie
  • Edith Foltz
  • Jessie Keith-Miller
  • Thea Rasche

These​ ​brave​ ​women​ ​brought​ ​women​ ​into​ ​the​ ​field​ ​of​ ​aviation.​ ​Each​ ​decade women​ ​were​ ​making​ ​inroads​ ​into​ ​the​ ​world​ ​of​ ​aviation.​ ​Soon​ ​competing​ ​with​ ​men and​ ​by​ ​themselves.​ ​Women​ ​were​ ​not​ ​only​ ​barnstormers​ ​and​ ​in​ ​races​ ​but​ ​later they​ ​helped​ ​protect​ ​our​ ​country​ ​in​ ​World​ ​War​ ​11.​ ​They​ ​hadn’t​ ​found​ ​the​ ​height​ ​of acceptance​ ​that​ ​they​ ​wanted​ ​but​ ​their​ ​day​ ​would​ ​come.​ ​There​ ​many​ ​hurdles​ ​that they​ ​had​ ​to​ ​climb​ ​before​ ​women​ ​pilots​ ​would​ ​be​ ​fully​ ​accepted​ ​as​ ​male​ ​pilots.  Today​ ​women​ ​are​ ​pilots​ ​and​ ​copilots​ ​of​ ​airliners,​ ​flying​ ​for​ ​the​ ​military​ ​and​ ​many other​ ​areas​ ​of​ ​aviationThere​ ​were​ ​restriction​ ​on​ ​the​ ​women​ ​in​ ​the​ ​race.​ ​At​ ​first​ ​the​ ​women​ ​were​ ​told they​ ​had​ ​to​ ​have​ ​a​ ​male​ ​mechanic​ ​in​ ​the​ ​plane.​ ​But​ ​the​ ​women​ ​wouldn’t​ ​hear​ ​of​ ​it. They​ ​were​ ​in​ ​the​ ​derby​ ​to​ ​prove​ ​that​ ​they​ ​were​ ​as​ ​good​ ​as​ ​the​ ​male​ ​pilots.  

Most of the women were not independently wealthy. They knew that they to buy  a plane to fly in the race. So they needed sponsors to furnish the plane. In return the planes carried the logo of the manufacture on the outside of the plane. This provided advertising for the company that furnished the plane.

When the women met with race officials at the start of the race the field was crowded with spectators making it difficult for the pilots to take off.

The planes were lined up and took off at one minute intervals. The lighter planes were first followed by the heavier ones. It must have been a sight to see all these planes leaving Clover Field in Cleveland. The women started on the venture of their lives. They couldn’t imagine the difficulties they would encounter.

Male and females were excited about this unusual activity for women. Some men hoped that they would fail and that the race would be a disaster. Of course, they believed that women should be in the home. They didn’t belong flying. The women of the race proved the men wrong. They persevered and traveled to heights that no one ever expected. I hope you find this story as exciting as I do. It’s a credit to these women that we owe our congratulation to show that women can be strong in any field.

The race would last eight days and would make the following stops for food and rest. There was very little rest for the women because they needed to protect their planes from sabotage. The damage might have been from male pilots or even fans who would want a part of the cloth from the wings. There was such chaos from the fans that the women got very little rest. Also they felt it was important to reach the next stop so they could keep their position in the race.

The race was sponsored by the Executive Clubs of each city the women landed. This was good publicity for the city. This race was watched by people all over the country.  Even though the races two races were only male pilots. It was the women plights that the county was interested. It was so unusual for women to break into a man’s world. Women were supposed to take care of family and home not be pilots.

The twenty women of the race became good friends. Some went on to fame in other races after the 1929 race. Some went back to their daily lives but they always stayed friends. Thy developed a strong bond that lasted through their lives.

Each women wanted to win the race but there was no major anger to the women who flew faster than others. It’s odd but that bond was so strong that there was no jealousy then it was believed.

The morning August 17th was a very busy crazy day. The women were excited and ready to go. The shot calling the beginning of the race was loud and clear but the runway was so filled with cars and spectators that pilots had to be very careful not to hit anyone or anything. Everyone wanted to see these beautiful and gorgeous women. Even though men didn’t believe that they participate in such a dangerous endeavor.

The race was made more difficult because they could not use navigational instruments. Relying only on road maps to know their location by knowing where rivers and lakes were located. The men thought that their lives were at risk if they flew at night. So there no night flying allowed. The women also had to use planes with engines that fit their abilities as women. They had to be ladylike and at each stop they had to attend banquets and talk about their experiences during the race.  All they wanted to was rest and then get back to the field to protect their planes from being damaged. Male pilots wouldn’t want the women pilots to steal their thunder. Men were hoping to prove that women weren’t meant to fly. 

Louise Thaden won first place in the heavy category. Her time was incredible…20 hours, 19 minutes, and 4 seconds. Phoebe Omlie won first place in the light category…  2  5 hours, 12 minutes and  4 7.5 seconds.

Come along with me and enjoy this exciting ride!

Doodles Make Me Smile


In other posts I showed you some of my doodle pictures.  Today I need to make myself feel positive. I cannot let circumstances make me sad. Positive thinking really does work. I know that for sure. Negative thoughts make me sad.

Looking at a Daily Doodle makes me think of  Vicky when Ward walked out of her life. I think of how she put herself together and learned to fly. She must have driven the sadness away while she concentrated on the positive not the negative.

Look at the Daily Doodles and SMILE,

balance charge