Patty Wagstaff

Proving the leadership of women in aviation, Patty Wagstaff has earned countless of prestigious awards and is highly ranked in various airshow competitions.  

Article By: Haley Guerin 

A small airplane fluttering in the cold Alaskan air came to a screeching halt as it suddenly crashed. It was an alarming experience that would have deterred most people from flying, but the strong woman inside the plane came to a decision in that moment to learn how to fly. The first flight of Patty Wagstaff was one that she would never forget. Her persistence allowed her to eventually become one of the most successful aviators of all time.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Wagstaff was introduced to aviation through her father. He was a pilot for Japan Airlines, causing Wagstaff to move to Japan at the young age of nine years old. Her sister, Toni, is a pilot for United Airlines. The thrill of aviation clearly runs deep in Wagstaff’s roots. 

After graduating from high school, Wagstaff moved to Australia where she explored its west coast. Later, she moved to Alaska where her flight journey took off. She took flight lessons in Alaska and embarked on her first flight, stepping stones that would later lead to monumental success in her career. 

Working hard to achieve her dreams, Wagstaff earned her single and multi-engine land commercial and instrument ratings in addition to earning her single engine sea rating. She became familiar with all kinds of aircrafts, always eager to learn more. She even earned her commercial rotorcraft rating and became a certified flight and instrument instructor.

1985 was a pivotal point in Wagstaff’s career as her dedication allowed her to  qualify for the US National Aerobatic Team. She proved an instrumental aspect of the team as she became the top US medal winner. She won bronze, silver, and even gold medals in international competitions. In fact, in 1991, she became the first woman to win the US National Aerobatic Championships and accomplished this arduous feat three times. 

Wagstaff did not simply quit after obtaining her prestigious accomplishments. Instead, she relentlessly pressed on. In 1993, she became the International Aerobatic Club Champion. Only a year later, her plane was found proudly being displayed next to Amelia Earhart’s plane at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum 

The following years of her career consisted of becoming the top-scoring US pilot at the World Aerobatics Championship, receiving her first hall of fame inductions (including being inducted into the International Women’s Aviation Hall of Fame), winning the Bill Barber sportsmanship award, and even being recognized as the six time winner of the Betty Skelton First Lady of Aerobatics award. 

In 2001, she set out to aid in wildlife conservation in Kenya. She used the various skills she had developed throughout her career to give back by training pilots of the Kenya Wildlife Service. This illuminated her desire to help others and make the world a better place through her talent as an established aviator.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame is often said to be the most prestigious hall of fame in the aviation industry and it now proudly hosts the accomplishments of Wagstaff after she was elected into it in 2004. She continues to strive to make the most of each day and be a better pilot as she keeps busy as an airshow pilot, flight instructor, stunt pilot, and writer. 

Patty Wagstaff demonstrates the capacity of women to contribute to the world in significant ways through their natural talents. She has clearly represented the fact that women can be leaders in any industry, even in male dominated industries, such as aviation. There is no limit to the potential of a determined woman who is ready to face challenges and grow in adversity. It’s time to take off, flyGIRLs. 

Eager for more on Patty Wagstaff? 

Check out this link:       NAHF. “Wagstaff, Patricia ‘Patty.’” National Aviation Hall of Fame, http://www.nationalaviation.org/our-enshrinees/wagstaff-patricia-patty

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