College was a pioneer in training women aviators by Holly Menzie MBA ’06
“Oh, the day I soloed, high above the world, by myself and able to enjoy the view of miles and miles. . .” This is the way Phoebe Ann (Ford) Hamlin ‘39 described her first solo flight. Hamlin was one of the Lake Erie students who learned to fly through the aviation program offered by the College beginning in 1935. At that time, students could take courses in aviation as an extracurricular activity in the physical education department. Thirty students enrolled the first year and were taught by licensed pilots from the Meinke-Eldred School of Aviation in Willoughby. In their weekly classes held on campus, the girls studied groundwork, fundamentals of flying and the theory of aeronautics. There was also instruction on weather conditions, parachutes, instruments and radio as well as lectures by experienced pilots. At the end of the ground school, every student experienced two hours of actual flying, sharing the controls with an instructor. Jane (Menke) Snyders Meek ’40 was one of the Lake Erie students who was active in the Aviation Club. Jane described her flight as follows: “My first airplane ride was with the program. It was in a two-seater open cockpit with dual controls. We felt important ‘flying’ the plane with the dual controls. We wore a suit like Amelia Earhart or a pair of riding jodhpurs,” Meek said.
William Uhle, instructor of the ground school classes, said his job was to make the girl feel at home in the air before she ever left the ground. Then, after going up, she would recognize additional factors she needed to understand, and which would clear up in ground school. (Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 1940) Dewey Eldred, considered one of the safest fliers in the nation in the 1940s, was in charge of the flying program at Lost Nation Airport. “We are showing once and for all,” Eldred said, “that any group of alert, intelligent young women can learn to fly as rapidly and as carefully as a similar group of young men.” (Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 1940) Ruth Bartlett, professor of physical education at the College, began the aviation program in response to the demand she foresaw for workers in the industry. “That flying is the coming means of travel is no longer a question,” Bartlett said. “Women will undoubtedly be employed in many phases of the whole industry of airship building and airline travel.” (Lake Erie College Bulletin, April 1936) After the first year, Lake Erie College organized an Aviation Club. This group became affiliated with the National Intercollegiate Flying Club, which was a member of the National Aeronautics Association. Lake Erie College was the first college for women to receive this official recognition. (Lake Erie College Bulletin, July 1936) The Aviation Club brought Amelia Earhart, “First Lady of the Air,” to campus on Oct. 29, 1936. Following dinner in the dining room in College Hall, Earhart lectured on “Aviation Adventures” in Morley Music Building. After the lecture, Continued on next page LAKE ERIE
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