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Flying Seven

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Hampton Gray
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Flying Seven

Flying Seven

The 'Flying Seven' circa 1936 (from left to right) Jean Pike, Tosca Trasolini, Betsy Flaherty, Alma Gilbert, Elianne Roberge, Margaret (Fane) Rutledge, and Rolie Moore

B.C. s famous 'Flying Seven women pilots charted unknown territory Back in 1936, when aviation was still in its infancy a group of women flyers got together to form The Flying Seven.

The idea for the the Flying Seven group in Canada sprang from a 1935 visit Margaret Fane made to California. At the Burbank Airport she met Lauretta Schimoler with whom she had been corresponding to exchange Canadian and U.S. information on women pilots.

Schimoler introduced Fane to Amelia Earhart who was getting ready to leave on a flight from Los Angeles to Mexico.They all went for lunch and discussed the possibility of the Canadian Women pilots joining the American group called the 99s.

This group had started some time before with 99 members, with Earhart as president. It was suggested that the Canadian women form a chapter of the American group. With the size of Canada and the few women pilots there, spread across the county, that idea was thrown out.

In July of 1936, Fane had left Edmonton where she had been the only woman member of the Edmonton and Northern Aero Club. Upon arrival in Vancouver she was pleased to find there were other women with licences. Some had learned to fly in the Vancouver area and, with the addition of herself and Elianne Roberge who had trained in Montreal, there were a total of seven. So, the 'Flying Seven Canadian Women Pilots became an active group.

In November 1936, to give the club a good start, they held a 'Dawn to Dusk flight, One member of the group took off at dawn and before that plane landed, another took off. This went on until official sunset when the last landing was made. The imperial Oil Company Donated the oil and the fellows at the airport came out at dawn to help get the planes ready.They stayed until sunset to
make sure the women were okay. This was the only Dawn to Dusk flight ever held at Vancouver Airport.

The 'Flying Seven went on helping out at air shows, holding flying and spot landings as well as competitions among themselves for trophies and other prizes.

When WWII broke out, the group offered their services but were not, accepted as pilots by the Canadian Air Force. So, they took part in fund-raising to buy aircraft for #8 Flying Training School in Vancouver.

Management of the Orpheum Theatre offered the threatre for a big night and the Cave Supper Club acted as venue for the show. Jack Wasserman of the Vancouver Sun provide publicity in his newspaper column. In addition,the 'Flying Seven borrowed a couple or airplanes from which they dropped advertising leaflets,they ended up raising $100,000, which at the time paid for eight training planes.

To further assist the war effort, the club organized ground school training. These classes were a great success. The school board lent classroom facilities and several qualified flight instructors volunteered their time.Many graduates joined the Women s Air Force while others went to the Boeing plant where their skills were needed.

During the war private flying was not allowed. After the war the members of the 'Flying Seven were scattered. Some had married and had children. Some had moved to other areas.Those left decided their dreams of a Canadian organization to match the American 99s would be impossible to manage. By now there were a greater number of Canadian women pilots, so it seemed more practical to form chapters of the American 99s. This was done with a great deal of success and the co-operation between the two countries has worked well..