Ruth Fleisher, Florida Goldcoast Chapter, cannot remember a time she was not interested in flying. Her father was an airport manager in Rochester, New York, when Ruth was growing up and she acquired her ground school instruction there in 1940. She then started teaching as a way to pay for flying lessons.
During World War II, Ruth spent a year as a communications officer at a Coastal Air Patrol base on Long Island, New York. Then she was off to Sweetwater, Texas, to participate in the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots program (WASPs).
After receiving the coveted Silver Wings, she went to the engineering test department at Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama and later graduated from the Air Force School of Applied Tactics at Orlando, Florida.
When the WASPs were disbanded in December 1944, Ruth spent a few weeks vacationing in South Florida, then it was back to aviation, working as a flight and ground instructor and as a charter pilot.
Her next adventure in aviation was as an Air Traffic Controller in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At first, Ruth was concerned about staying in a glass box all day, but soon discovered that every day was different and she came to love it. She also enjoyed the steady income that the ATC position afforded, unlike that provided by instructing or flying charter flights.
Ruth later joined the Air Force Reserve where she was an ATC and Flight Facilities Officer at several Air Force bases in the United States and England. She served for several years as the flight instructor and operations officer for various USAF Aero Clubs, and retired with a rank of major in 1973.
Eventually, Ruth and her husband Bud moved to South Florida to be near family and a place where they could enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, boating and golf. When Bud left for Vietnam, Ruth planned and built a home in Homestead where she still maintains an avocado grove.
Ruth has flown more than 30 different aircraft. Her favorite military aircraft was the AT6. She says it was thrilling to fly the low-wing 650 HP aircraft. Other favorites were the Beechcrafts and Mooneys. She attained her Multiengine rating in a tail-dragger referred to as the “Bamboo Bomber.” She currently holds a Commercial Flight Instructors certificate with Airplane, Instrument, Single and Multiengine Land ratings.
Ruth has flown in the Powder Puff races sponsored by the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race. She also worked as a timer and chief judge for the International Air Race. She was appointed an Accident Prevention Counselor for the FAA.
Besides being active in The 99s for many years, Ruth is also a member of the Women Military Aviator’s Association, Glenn Curtiss Museum, American Aviation Historical Society, International Women’s Air and Space Museum and AOPA.
Among her father’s memorabilia, Ruth recently found a guest book from the airport in Rochester which contained the signature of Amelia Earhart. She has donated the book to The 99s Museum of Women Pilots in Oklahoma City.
By Laurie Householder, Florida Goldcoast Chapter