Knox Press

The Fly Girls Revolt: The Story of the Women Who Kicked Open the Door to Fly in Combat

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This is the untold story of the women military aviators of the 1970s and 1980s who finally kicked open the door to fly in combat in 1993—along with the story of the women who paved the way before them.

On October 25, 1983, U.S. forces invaded the island of Grenada. As ground forces and naval aircraft pummeled targets, Lieutenant Margie Clark, an Air Force pilot, flew three missions into the combat zone in her C-141 cargo aircraft. Six years later, Army Captain Vicky Calhoun, a helicopter pilot, wasn’t as lucky when U.S. forces invaded Panama. Calhoun’s immediate superior decided she couldn’t go to Panama because she was a woman. Even worse, she was replaced with a less-qualified male pilot.

Clark’s and Calhoun’s different experiences are the result of inconsistent interpretations of a law that prohibited women from flying aircraft in combat. The military began training women as aviators in 1973, but women could not be assigned to fly combat aircraft. Time and again when a woman graduated at the top of her pilot training class, a less-qualified pilot was sent to fly a combat aircraft in her place.

Most of the women who fought for change would never fly in combat themselves, but they earned their places in history by strengthening the U.S. military and ensuring future women would not be denied opportunities solely because of their sex.