The Aviatrices


“Don’t touch that plane, little girl.”


Millicent Young took the money she earned from farming and told her mother she was going to buy clothes. Instead, she bought flying lessons.

During World War II she flew an AT-6, towing targets for (male) pilots learning how to shoot. According to her obituary in The Gazette of Colorado Springs, “She liked to say our side shot at her.”

After victory her war effort continued, this time to gain military status for her fellow (female) pilots. Her success is all the more notable because she wasn’t otherwise unoccupied:

Millicent Young worked various jobs, parking cars at the Antlers Hotel, selling encyclopedias, even penning a food column for The Gazette … She spent more than two years working for the El Paso County Department of Human Services, being named “Working Woman of the Year” by the state in 1985.




“Where’s the pilot?” someone on the ground crew asked.

“I am the pilot,” she responded.


Mary Ellis was shot at by her own side too, but by mistake. It was, she said – with sterling British understatement  – “not an experience I ever want to repeat.”

Her Washington Post obituary records that friendly fire, fog, the Luftwaffe, landing gear, and Nazi rockets were among her hazards ferrying Spitfires to combat pilots.

After the war, Ms. Ellis became a rally car driver. Then she (more or less) settled down:

She was thought to be the first woman to run an airport in Europe, and over the next two decades, she did everything from working the control tower to running out to shoo away sheep and wave the aircraft in toward the terminal. She even cut the grass and helped the airfield grow into a busy airport handling flights between the Isle of Wight and many mainland English cities.