As we flew from Portland to Washington, D.C., the vets told us a lot of war stories. One very interesting tale came from a World War II vet who knows a little something about flying.
Ninety-three-year-old Nancy Baker of Fairbanks was carrying something on the trip that got a lot of attention: A card that says she’s certified to fly P-40s, P-47s, P-51s and P-63s.
Like driving a new car off the sales lot, the then-20-year-old Baker flew brand new planes from U.S. factories to the East Coast. From there, ships hauled them to war overseas.
Baker didn’t get a lot of training on the planes before flying them from the showroom.
“We got instructions. We got verbal instructions,” Baker said. “You just took off. Just took off and flew.”
She told us men never had a problem with her flying because she was a woman. It was her height that sometimes was an issue.
“One day somebody reported a P-47 flying around the airport without a pilot,” she said. “And then the tower called in and found it was me. I was so small they couldn’t see me.”
We asked her why she signed up.
“For one thing I love to fly,” she said. “That’s all I every wanted to do from the beginning when I was a little teenie kid.”
When Baker returned home from the war she flew encyclopedias to people in the Bush. She says families, especially those with kids, needed them.
There were more than 40 vets flying on the plane, along with their guardians. Baker flew with Susan Grace, a very good friend.