Daring Dames: Virginia Clayton, Flight Instructor

Hey, everyone! Here is the second in our series of blogs about women pilots in Alaskan aviation history!

 Virginia Merrill Clayton completed her first solo flight, in a Piper J-3, on December 7, 1941, the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed. Her plane should have been on the ground, but the news came through while she was flying. She officially got her license in Idaho on December 15, 1941. She had planned on joining the Civilian Pilot Training Program, but while she was in college, they began to bar women from joining. In 1942, she became the only female flight instructor for the Whitman college naval cadet flight program. During this time, Merrill planned to join the WASPs, but before that could happen she was offered a job as a flight instructor at the Top of the World Flying School in Fairbanks! While there she met and instructed her future husband, George Clayton. Once married, Virginia gave up her flying career to stay home with her children.


Virginia Clayton, 1944, only female instructor in the photograph, Martin Field near Walla Walla, Washington. Photograph, caption, and information from Women Pilots of Alaska by Sandi Sumner (2005) and Heroes of the Horizon by Gerry Bruder (1991).

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