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Stormville Airport : Stories : Betts Gardiner

Tricia Stukenschneider wrote to tell about her Mother, Elizabeth "Bets" Gardiner. "My Mom was a Gunnery instructor in the Navy during WWII. She taught the men how to aim the guns from the wings of the planes. She was always very proud of her time in the Waves." Bets' introduction to aviation was through the Women Flyers of America at Stormville Airport.

Here is a link to Bets' wonderful story about her time in New York City early-on as the United States became involved with World War II. The pages are a short excerpt from her book, Navy and Proud of It!. Bets relates her experience learning to fly at Stormville with the Women Flyers of America"

According to the Smithsonioan, "The Women Flyers of America (WFA), established in July 1940, invited any women over the age of 18 to join their organization if they were interested in flying 'for sport, profession, or national emergency.' This organization helped to guide and prepare women in the various phases of aviation, and local chapters could be found in major cities across the United States. Mattie F. McFadden, an aeronautical engineer who worked for Chance Vought Aircraft Company, served as the Bridgeport, Connecticut, chapter president of the WFA and later became the national president of this organization. The organization folded in 1954."

Tricia continues, "I know now for sure that the dates that my Mom learned to fly were before the war...her Dad died a few months after the war and she told me that she was still in the Navy when he died. She went another direction with her life for a while...traveled the country and came to Denver where she reenlisted.

"So the WFA must have been teaching women to fly at the Stormville airport in the early forties... she loved to fly. She told me she used to love taking guys up in a Piper Cub and turning upside down. She said it was a lot of fun to watch them turn green. My mom was a very independent and adventurous woman.

"I know she was the first public relations Director for Pan American Airlines. From reading of Pan American, I believe this would have been after the War. I remember her telling me how when the War started she was an Air Raid Warden (I believe this was the title) She went door to door in the "brown outs" to get get people to comply. She taught Gunnery during the war on the Gunairstructor. The Gunairstructor seems to have been for pilots to train pilots . It was a two person trainer where the teacher sat in front and had controls also. She would challenge the pilot flying in a copilot position.

"After the War she reenlisted at Buckley in Aurora. They wouldn't let her use the Gunairstructor. They said they had no one to repair it. She said she was trained to repair it but they assigned her to the 'link trainer' This was much less involvement and she didn't like it."

A manuscript of Bets book, Navy and Proud of It! may be found in the archives of the Naval Aviation History Branch (AVH) of Naval Historical Center.

Elizabeth 'Bets' Gardiner in the rear seat of a Cub   at Stormville in 1943.  On the back, 'Learning to fly at Stormville Airport.'
Elizabeth 'Bets' Gardiner in the rear seat of a Cub at Stormville in 1943. On the back, 'Learning to fly at Stormville Airport.'Tricia Stuckenschneider
Bets prepares to start the engine.
Bets prepares to start the engine.Tricia Stuckenschneider
Elizabeth Gardiner
Elizabeth GardinerTricia Stuckenschneider