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ANN BAUMGARTNER CARL|
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Ms. Ann Baumgartner learned to fly in the fall of 1940 while working as a writer in the Eastern Airlines public relations department. She primarily flew small aircraft like the Piper Cub until receiving her private pilot license. She eventually purchased half interest in a Piper Cub and set the goal of building up 200 flying hours required for a commercial pilot license. She also volunteered to fly for the Civil Air Patrol and flew patrol and search and rescue missions during the first half of 1942.
Ms. Baumgartner interviewed with Ms. Jackie Cochran in late 1942 and was accepted into the third WFTD class beginning Jan. 15, 1943. Unfortunately, she caught the measles during training and because of time missed while sick, completed her training with the fifth WASP class (43-W-5), and graduated on July 3, 1943.
Her first assignment after graduation was as a tow target pilot at Camp Davis, N.C. Ms. Baumgartner (and fellow WASP Betty Greene) were sent as replacement pilots for two WASPs killed in flying accidents.* Camp Davis was an artillery training base and the WASPs flew as visual and radar tracking targets, target sleeve towing for live fire training, target drone "mother ships," remote drone pilot and practice dive bombing. Ms. Baumgartner flew several types of aircraft at Camp Davis, including the Douglas A-24, Curtiss A-25, Lockheed B-34, Cessna UC-78 and Stinson L-5.
In February 1944, Ms. Baumgartner and Ms. Greene were transferred to Wright Field, Ohio, to test aeromedical equipment being designed for the WASPs. While testing the aeromedical equipment Ms. Baumgartner and Ms. Greene became interested in flight test and discussed a possible assignment with Col. Ernest Warburton, Chief of the Flight Test Division. Positions for assistant operations officers existed in the fighter and transport flight test sections; however, their temporary assignments expired in the aeromedical lab, and they flew back to Camp Davis to resume target towing duties.
After about two weeks, word was received from Wright Field indicating the transfer was approved for the two women. Ms. Greene turned down the assignment to transport flight test, but Ms. Baumgartner accepted and arrived for duty in March 1944.
Ms. Baumgartner was assigned as an assistant operations officer in the fighter test section. Her primary duties included keeping track of pilot schedules and aircraft availability -- making sure the planes were ready for the pilots when they needed them, taking care of required paperwork, etc. Gradually she was allowed to fly and checked out in a variety of aircraft assigned to fighter test including the P-47 Thunderbolt.
Ms. Miss Baumgartner participated in various flight test programs and flew a wide range of fighter planes. For example, she tested a prototype high altitude reconnaissance camera and as a chase pilot "attacking" a test aircraft fitted with a tail mounted warning radar system. Occasionally, she was assigned as a cross country pilot transporting staff officers to other bases. She picked up and delivered planes as required also.
Ms. Baumgartner was briefly transferred to the bomber flight test division and accumulated pilot and copilot time in most of America's bomber aircraft, including the B-17 and B-24. She even had some time as copilot or observer pilot in the B-29, British Mosquito and German Ju 88.
After her reassignment to fighter test, Ms. Baumgartner had the opportunity to check out in America's first jet aircraft, the Bell YP-59A. On Oct. 14, 1944, she became the first American woman to fly a jet.
She remained in fighter flight test at Wright Field until the WASP program was disbanded in December 1944. Although she spent less than a year with the Test Division, she was a valuable addition to the program.
* One accident at Camp Davis was probably caused by sabotage (i.e. sugar in the fuel tanks) to the aircraft but official reports did not document this.
A WASP Among Eagles by Ann Baumgartner Carl
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