Many considered flying a "man's job," but women such as Barbara Erickson London had the skills and dedication that gave our country the boost it needed to win World War II. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, London entered the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) while at the University of Washington. One of only 4 women in a class of 40, flying came naturally. She quickly soloed and soon received her private license. Pushed on by the thrill of flying, she earned commercial and instructor ratings in rapid succession. Identified as a superior pilot, London remained as an instructor. Later, she won the Northwest Region competition for the outstanding CPTP pilot.
In 1942, with the nation at war, London joined the Women's Auxiliary Ferry Squadron at Wilmington, Delaware. An original member of the 2nd Ferry Group, she trained on Piper Cubs and other aircraft until sent to Long Beach, California to activate the 6th Ferry Group. London, as squadron commander, organized and trained a cohesive unit, upgrading only the best aviators to more complex aircraft. She classified pilots by aircraft type: Single engine, multi-engine, light bomber, four engine, or pursuit. London flew the entire range of fighters, bombers, and transports, including the P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, C-54 Skymaster, B-25 Mitchell, and B-17 Flying Fortress.
In 1943, at the peak of aircraft production, she was awarded the Air Medal by General "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General, USAAF, for meritorious achievements in aerial flight and significant contributions as a WASP. Political decisions led to the deactivation of WASPs in December 1944. This emotional event ended a truly outstanding phase in women's aviation and marked London's temporary separation from the military. In 1948, in recognition of her WW II service, she received a direct commission to major in the Air Force Reserve. Later, Barbara Erickson married Jack London, Jr., whom she had met in the Ferry Command.
With him and several other veterans, she formed a new company, United States Aviation, combining a flight school, charter service, and aircraft parts sales, but sold it when the Korean War separated the partners. London then served as executive secretary and board member for the "Powder Puff Derby," the famed all-woman transcontinental air race--an association she continued until the mid-1960s. Returning to the retail aircraft business, she helped build Barney Frazier Aircraft, Inc.
By 1943, Allied leaders were screaming for more fighter protection for the European bombing effort. As the nation's aircraft production soared, ferry pilots were pushed to their limits. In response to this increased demand, Major Barbara Erickson London made four 2,000-mile trips delivering P-47, P-51, and C-47 aircraft in just 5 days. For this achievement and her distinguished service as a Women's Army Service Pilot (WASP), she was awarded the Air Medal--the only one awarded to a woman in World War II.