Rainey, Barbara Allen (1948–1982)

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Rainey, Barbara Allen (1948–1982)

First woman to become a U.S. Navy pilot. Born on August 20, 1948, in Bethesda, Maryland; died in a plane crash near Evergreen, Alabama, on July 13, 1982; father was an officer in the Navy; Whittier College, Whittier, California, B.A.; married John C. Rainey (a Navy pilot); children: two daughters.

The daughter of a Navy officer, Barbara Allen Rainey was born at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland in 1948, and grew up in Long Beach, California, where she was active in sports and graduated from Lakewood High School. After attending Long Beach City College, she graduated with a B.A. from Whittier College in Whittier, California, and joined the Naval Reserves as an officer late in 1970. She then applied to the U.S. Naval Flight Training School, and after being admitted completed her flight training in one year. In February 1974, Rainey received her "wings of gold," becoming the first female pilot in the history of the U.S. Navy. She served with the Pacific Fleet Squadron in California, and married a fellow Navy pilot. Rainey left active duty in November 1977, prior to the birth of her first child. She remained in the Naval Reserves, and became qualified to fly a C-118 (DC-6) while pregnant with her second child. Recalled to active duty as a flight instructor in 1981, Rainey was assigned to the air station at Whiting Field in Milton, Florida. She was training another pilot in touch-and-go landings at Middleton Field in Alabama on July 13, 1982, when her plane crashed. She was 34. Rainey was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, where her gravestone commemorates her as the "first woman Naval aviator."

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont

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Rainey, Barbara Allen (1948–1982)

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