Dorothy Swain Lewis 44-5

“Dot” Swain Lewis was one of 10 women pilots taught to be instructor pilots at Phoebe Omlie’s Women’s Research Flight Instructor School , from late 1942 to early 1943. The school was a one-time experiment, set up by the Tennessee Bureau of Aeronautics, to prove that women were capable of being instructor pilots. Phoebe Omlie believed that “Women taught men to walk, they can teach them to fly!” Her women instructor pilots went on to train Navy men to fly in combat situations. While Lewis was still an instructor under training at Omlie’s school, Jackie Cochran approached her about joining the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Lewis declined Cochran’s invitation atthe time because she wanted to honor her obligation to complete instructor training. After a few months teaching Navy men to fly, she accepted a position teaching the WASP to fly. Eventually she resigned from teaching the WASP in order to become a WASP. Lewis did double duty serving our nation in World War II. She taught future Naval aviators to fly. No doubt some of those Navy men flew in combat and helped win World War II. As a WASP, she flew military aircraft on missions, which relieved male pilots for combat. One of these aircraft was the MartinB-26 Marauder, which towed targets for B-24 gunners in training. While serving as a WASP, she also helped document their experience and maintain morale with her humorous cartoons and musical talents. A year after World War II the WASP held their first reunion at Piper Aircraft in Lock Haven, PA. Lewis and a group of WASP ferried nearly 100 yellow Piper Cubs and Cruisers first to the Cleveland National Championship Air Races, then on to their destinations. Since World War II, Lewis has married and had a family, and lived a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishment. She has taught biology, physics, art, horseback riding, and flying. She is an accomplished artist and sculptor.

A little girl in North Carolina, who was barely thirteen, took her Sunday School money and paid for her first flying lesson. She earned her instructor’s rating and then taught at the Naval Aviation College in Portales, New Mexico. While flying for Piper Aircraft Co. she learned of the experimental flying program for women pilots at Avenger Field. She was hired as a primary instructor. After a short time, she decided she wanted to fly the larger planes, so she resigned and became a trainee in the program, After graduation, she was assigned to Columbus Army Air Field, Miss., flying AT-10s, but was soon transferred to Laredo Army Air Base, Tx, a flexible gunnery school. Dot flew the P-40 and P-63 and towed targets with the B-26. After the WASP, Dot pursued other interests and careers, including ’stunt’ flying as ‘Miss Ophelia’. She had horses, an airplane, a ranch. was a FAA designated private and commercial examiner, flight instructor and she still plays a ‘mean’ guitar, but her first love is art, which she taught for 26 years She used her artistic talents and did the illustrations for the book, ‘We Were WASP’ for her dear friend, the author and WASP, Winnie Wood. Dot has created several pieces of art which will forever represent the WASP, including a WASP statue which will be unveiled during the reception at the temporary National WASP WWII Museum at Avenger Field on May 27, 2005.

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