Ms. Nancy Batson was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala. While attending the University of Alabama she received a private pilot certificate in the Civilian Pilot Training Program in 1940 and her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941. Her parents bought her a Pope J-4 Cub Coupe, and she used it to get her commercial certificate and instructor's rating. Ms. Batson was hired by Pan American Airways as a control tower trainee and by Embry-Riddle in Miami as an instructor in J-3 Cubs on pontoons.
In October 1942 she traveled to New Castle Army Air Base near Wilmington, Del., to join the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. She had accumulated more than 500 hours of flight time and had two additional flight ratings -- multi-engine and 200 hp. After passing her acceptance flight, she was checked out in some primary trainer and liaison aircraft. Her first ferrying job came on Nov. 5, 1942, when she and five other WAFS pilots flew Fairchild PT-19s from the factory in Hagarstown, Md., to an Army training base near Chattanooga, Tenn.
A year later, Ms. Batson and nine other WAFS made history when they became the first women assigned to the Air Transport Command's Pursuit School in Palm Springs, Calif. After less than three weeks of ground school, Ms. Batson soloed a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt -- one of the first women to fly the plane. Since the P-47 was a single seat aircraft, her first flight was also her first solo flight. On Jan. 1, 1944, she graduated a fully-qualified pursuit plane ferry pilot. After nearly a year of ferrying high performance aircraft, she demonstrated her superb piloting skill while delivering a P-38 Lightning from the Lockheed factory in Burbank, Calif., to Newark, N.J. She took off from Pittsburgh, Penn., on the trips' last leg and noted a problem with one of the engines and decided to return to Pittsburgh to have it checked out. When she tried to lower the landing gear, however, the nose gear stuck in a semi-retracted position. She followed emergency procedures to try to get the nose gear to lock in place -- pumping the manual emergency hydraulic pump in the cockpit and flying "zooms" to use g-forces to lock the gear in place, but nothing worked. Finally, she was able to get the gear down by flying a "zoom" while firing a compressed gas cartridge to be used as a last resort to force the gear down. She then made a relatively routine landing and saved the $115,000 aircraft. On Dec. 19, 1944 -- one day before the WASPs were deactivated -- Ms. Batson flew her last pursuit plane when she ferried a new P-47 from the Republic factory in Farmingdale (Long Island), N.Y., to the overseas embarkation point in Newark, N.J.
Ms. Batson accumulated about 900 hours of flight time ferrying more than 25 types of military aircraft, including L-4, PT-19, AT-6, C-60, P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51 and A-20s. During this time, she received an Army Air Corps instrument rating.
In 1946 she married Lt. Col. Paul Crews and had three children. In California she worked part-time instructing at Rose Aviation, flew in three Powder Puff Derbies, bought a Piper Super Cub to tow gliders and aerial banners. Mrs. Crews bought a Schweizer 1-34 and 2-33, receiving a glider commercial certificate, instructor rating and Silver badge. She has also owned a Taylorcraft and Mooney Mite, which was donated to the Southern Museum of Flight in Alabama. She was mayor of California City and in 1989 was inducted in the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame.