When we think about war and aviation, we usually picture male fighter pilots engaged in dramatic battles. What few people realize is that females also played a huge role in aviation during war time. At times, women have been responsible for much of the design, manufacturing and production of aircraft for use by the military.
One such woman was Elsie MacGill. She was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1905 and showed a strong aptitude for science and engineering. She in fact studied and received a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering in Canada. Her first position as an aeronautical engineer was at Canadian Car and Foundry Company, also known as Can Car. Her role in this position was to help design aircraft, which she did. She also tested new potential aircraft, including the Maple Leaf Trainer II, a training plane that she herself designed. During war time she was the person responsible for the production of the aircraft needed by the military.
She also had to diagnose problems and find solutions to problems on aircraft. Elsie MacGill was given the nickname “Queen of the Hurricanes”. The nickname came from the fact that she was in charge of the production of the Hawker Hurricanes, which were aircraft that were made for the war effort. The Hawker Hurricane was the military aircraft of the Royal Air Force in Britain. The country was unable to produce enough planes for their war effort which was why Can Car was commissioned to start producing the planes. The Can Car Company was able to replace all the fighter planes that were lost during the Battle of Britain, which helped the British war effort tremendously.
Commission to Work
Many women were commissioned to work in the aviation industry during the time of World War II. The war effort took toll on the population and many males were conscripted to the army. In the meantime, the females were left to pick up the slack and carry on the effort in the branch of economy. They were hired to build the aircrafts that the men used to fight in the war. But construction wasn’t the only area in which women excelled.
There were also women pilots in 1945, and at this time it did become necessary for these pilots to fly airplanes during the war. They did not fly combat missions though. The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was formed in 1943 and consisted of about 1000 women who had various roles including as air flight training instructors and as engineering test pilots. They also had other functions such as ferrying aircraft and towing targets for air-to-air practice.
Other women became flight nurses for the war effort. These flight nurses were called “flight angels” and became part of the Army Nurse Corps. The demand for flight nurses was very high during World War II.
Women have served many important roles in aviation during war time as nurses, aircraft mechanics, and even as aircraft designers who were involved in overseeing plane production.