Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pioneer Lady Pilot Passes away at 85

Women's aviation pioneer Caro Bayley Bosca died at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Community Hospital of pancreatic cancer. Here is a story her surviving brother said he tells everyone about her.

By the early 1950s, Robert Bayley had seen his sister fly, of course.

Both had learned before World War II, and while he had served as a flying instructor with the Army Air Force during the war, she had ferried military planes around the country with the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

After the war, when Bayley came home to Springfield, Caro took up with other "WASPs," living in a Miami, Fla., apartment they called the Wasp's Nest.

Soon, she was into aerobatic flying, and when her touring troupe flew into Richmond, Ind., for a show Bayley decided to go see her perform.

"Richmond didn't have much of an airport then, it was really a field," said Bayley, who is 89.
At the show, "they strung a rope ... maybe up about 20 or 30 feet" in the air at a spot near the runway - a spot where wheat or hay was growing.

Roaring in her stunt plane, "she came down in front of the crowd upside down, went under that rope, and dangled her hand out as if she was grabbing at the grass," Bayley said.

On a return pass near the crowd, "she was waving grass in her hand," he said.

"She had that crowd convinced" she'd plucked it from the ground. Bayley said.

"Actually she'd gone out and put it in the plane before the act," he added. But that didn't lessen her brother's respect for her daring even by a width of a blade of grass.

"I always tell people I can fly upside down fine," said the retired attorney, "as long as I have a good 5,000 feet under me.

"Caro had less than 5 feet when she did that," he said. "It scared the hell out of me."
Added Bayley, "I think she was terrific."