Marty Wyall was flying planes when she was just a young lady. At 90, she loves to reminisce about her time as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP).
“In 1942 there was a shortage of male pilots,” Wyall said. “There were 25,000 ‘lady pilots’ who volunteered to fly. Of that, there were 1,830 accepted into flight training. I was one of those pilots.”
Wyall, who lives in Fort Wayne, drove to Speedway last week to visit members of the Exchange Club of Speedway. The club has a deep history in aviation and jumped at a chance to get such an interesting speaker.
Orville Wright was a member of Exchange Club, as well as James H. “Jimmy” Dolittle. Amelia Earhart was an honorary member and addressed the 12th National Convention of Exchange in 1927.
“We flew all missions with the exception of combat,” Wyall explained. “The lady pilots logged 60 million miles in 2.5 years. I graduated Dec. 7, 1944, in the last class.”
Just 10 days following her graduation, the WASP program was deactivated.
“We went through the same training as the male pilots,” she said. “It was harder for some of the older ladies because we had to learn how to fly military style. And they had developed some bad habits.”
Wyall said her father, a Methodist minister, would not let her train for her pilot license until after she graduated from college. She attended DePauw University in Greencastle. After graduation, she got a job at Eli Lilly and started her flying lessons at an airstrip at 21st and Post Road.
“My trainer would come in on a motorcycle,” she said. “He was a wonderful trainer. But every time I went up, I got sick.”
She said her flight instructor would not let her fly solo until she could go at least an hour without being sick.
“We were making a trip from Richmond to Indianapolis one Saturday,” Wyall said. “He said if I didn’t get sick, he would let me solo. And one other thing. He forgot his cigar that day. It turned out I was allergic to his cigar smoke. So I didn’t get sick and I was able to fly solo.”