TACOMA, Wash. — Dorothy Eleanor Olsen, a member of a group of civilian volunteers who flew planes across the country during World War II, has died. She was 103.
The News Tribune reports that Olsen died July 23 in University Place, Washington. She flew about 60 missions as part of the 6th Ferry Group of the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
WASP members hauled targets for shooting practice and performed other flying duties. WASPs were not recognized as veterans until 1977 under President Jimmy Carter.
Favorite Plane was P-51 Mustang
Olsen flew about 29 different aircraft. Her favorite was the P-51.
“Mom said the P-38 was an old woman’s plane. She said anybody could fly that,” said her daughter, Julie Stranburg. “She said that the (P-)51, you had to stay on top of that.”
Debbie Jennings, friends with Olsen since about 2003 and developer of a WASP exhibit at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, said her friend preferred the fighter plane because she was by herself and could do whatever she wanted.
Jennings said Olsen would get a kick out of scaring farmers on their tractors and fly right behind them.
Awarded Congressional Gold Medal
Olsen was stationed at Long Beach Army Air Base in California from 1942-1944 and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Stranburg said her mother didn’t fly after she and her brother were born and didn’t even think of flying commercial or private planes.
“She said, ‘Why would I want to fly a Cessna when I’ve flown a P-51?'” Stranburg said.