2024 Pioneer Hall of Fame

Congratulations to the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame 2024 Inductees!

Katherine Johnson,  U.S. Air Force First Undergraduate Navigator Class 78-01, and U.S. Army Air Forces World War II Flight Nurses

Katherine Johnson

The late Katherine Johnson is perhaps the greatest mathematician of her time and a NASA legend. Despite racial and gender barriers, Katherine, along with her Human Computer Women colleagues, were a critical part of NASA’s 1960s Space Race. Her unprecedented mathematical calculations of orbital mechanics were a vital part of the successful first and subsequent U.S.-crewed spaceflights. After over 60 years of being an unknown story, the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures, and the subsequent movie about Katherine’s life, also titled Hidden Figures, finally revealed the trailblazing accomplishments of Katherine and her colleagues.

U.S. Air Force First Undergraduate Navigator Class 78-01

In 1975, the United States Air Force Chief of Staff announced the establishment of a test program for female pilots and navigators. The six navigator candidates were all U.S. Air Force officers from various career fields including aircraft maintenance, drug and alcohol abuse program, intelligence, weather, and air traffic control. These women: Capt. Margaret M. Stanek, 1st Lt. Mary K. Higgins, 1st Lt. Elizabeth A. Koch, 1st Lt. Bettye J. Payne, 2nd Lt. Florence E. Parker, and 2nd Lt. Ramona L. McCall helped push open the doors for other women in military aviation with determination and professionalism. Ultimately, these women navigated around the world—something denied merely by policy since World War II.

U.S. Army Air Forces World War II Flight Nurses

At the height of World War II, 500 flight nurses served with the U.S. Army Air Forces as members of 31 medical air evacuation squadrons. These worldwide missions were located on both the European and Pacific fronts. The first class of these dedicated volunteer flight nurses graduated from air evacuation training at Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky, on February 18, 1943. These women had to be in top physical condition for grueling medical evacuation missions. They were trained in crash procedures, survival training, and high-altitude physiology. More than one million patients were evacuated by air between January 1943 and May 1945, and only 46 died enroute.

These trailblazers will be honored at the 35th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference during a ceremony and celebration dinner at the Orlando World Center Marriott on Saturday, March 23, 2024, from 6-8 p.m. EST.