Unbeknownst to her parents in late 1940, Fran Bera began skipping high school classes to take flying lessons, and soloed at age 16. She earned her commercial certificate and flight instructor ratings, became a free fall parachutist, and ferried surplus aircraft after World War II. She was one of the first women to be designated as an FAA pilot examiner at the then-minimum age of 24. She has been a designated pilot examiner for private, commercial, multiengine and instrument ratings for more than 25 years, during which time she has certified more than 3,000 pilots and lost count of the number she soloed. She was employed as a pilot from 1945 to 1985.
Fran was the first woman to fly a helicopter with no tail rotor, while she was an experimental test pilot for Lift Systems, Inc., and was one of the 25 women invited to participate in a week-long testing program of potential women astronauts at the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Fran is a seven-time winner of the All Woman Transcontinental Air Race (Powder Puff Derby) and won the Palm to Pines All Women's Air Race in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005. For 31 years she's held the world altitude record for class C-1-d, established in June 1966 in Long Beach, California, in a Piper Apache. Her latest goal is to be a member of the Flying Octogenarian Club because she plans "to wear out, not rust out."