Maxine Edmondson Flournoy was a member of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. Born in Wheaton, Missouri on 30 March 1921, she obtained her pilot's license in 1941 through the Civil Pilot Training program at Joplin Junior College when the program offered ten percent of its training slots to women. Flournoy was supporting the war effort at a defense plant, making dies for bullet shell casings, when she was contacted about joining the WASPs. She volunteered and completed primary, basic, and advanced flying training in 1943 at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas as part of class 43-W-8. Flournoy flew a variety of aircraft, including the PT-19, BT-15, and the AT-6 in a demanding six month training program. Upon graduation, she joined an elite group of women serving their country while many male pilots were flying combat missions overseas in the European and Pacific theaters. During the war 1,074 women completed WASP training, flying more than 60 million miles in numerous Army Air Corps aircraft, from the P-47 to the B-29. Thirty-eight of her fellow pilots were killed, 11 in training accidents and 27 in the line of duty. The WASPs served in a civil service capacity without official military benefits. Following graduation Flournoy was assigned to the navigation school at Hondo Army Air Field in Texas, where she remained for the duration of the war, training cadet navigators in the Beechcraft C-45, also known by its military designation as the AT-7. She flew on long distance graduation flights, often to Los Angeles where she visited with her mother during layovers, helping trainees hone their navigation skills before flying under combat conditions. She also flew missions testing aircraft engines and delivering aircraft across the country, until the WASPs were deactivated in December 1944. Flournoy was hired as a company pilot in Alice, Texas, where she met her husband after the war. After she married and had her first child, however, she would not fly again for 20 years. In the 1960s she rediscovered her passion for aviation, flying a family-owned Cessna 337 across the country to WASP reunions well into the 1980s. She remained active in civic life as a Texas historical commissioner, and was appointed to the World USO board by former President Jimmy Carter. Flournoy served as the president of the WASP Association, the Order of Fifinella, for two years from 2000-2002. The Commemorative Air Force renamed its Third Coast Squadron, based in Corpus Christi, Texas, in her honor in 2004, dedicating a museum exhibit to her wartime service. In March 2010, she travelled to Washington, D.C. to accept the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award, in recognition of her role in breaking flying and gender barriers. She has 3 daughters and 11 grandchildren, and currently resides in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Maxine Edmondson flies in an AT-7 on a cross country flight from Hondo Army Air Field, Texas, training aviation cadets on long-range navigation before their deployment to overseas combat theaters.