Bea on Columbia
Irene was 34 and single when she was solicited by Dr. Lovelace. A strong willed woman of German descent, her first aviation experience was as a child in Chicago. She and her Mother would go to a local park to partake of parachute rides!
Wanting to pursue aviation, and more so, to fly fighters, she attempted to join the WASP when she was 17 by using a fake logbook and older friends birth certificate. These women admired the WASP greatly and at the time that was the best flying a woman could do. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. It didn't stop her though, as by 1961 when she received her call, she held a Commercial Pilot's license, with airplane single and multi-engine land ratings, instrument ratings, and airplane single engine sea ratings - and built up more than 9,000 hours - far more than any Mercury 7 astronaut.
In 1965, Irene attempted a Pacific Ocean crossing in a single engine Comanche - 7 hours and 30 minutes out of San Francisco she had an electrical fire. All radio equipment out, no navigation gear available at all, she turned around and 7 hours and 15 minutes later landed back in San Francisco.
Irene continued to fly after the Mercury 13 testing, and up until recently still flew part time for a manufacturing company in Arizona. She currently works with a Civil Air Patrol squadron, Squadron 206, as a flight check pilot. She has in excess of 25,400 hours, and holds an ATP with multi engine land ratings, and possesses commercial privileges in single engine land, single engine sea, multi-engine sea and glider. She also holds an instrument rating and is a certified flight instructor. She recently trained 2 multi-engine students in a Turbo Seneca II and a Cessna 310. She currently owns a consulting business, Aviation Resource Management in Arizona and is a designated Aviation Safety Counselor through the FAA.
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