Velta Haney Benn
Inducted in 1983, Velta Haney Benn was active in Virginia aviation for nearly 40 years. She accumulated more than 40,000 hours of flying time and earned a wide range of advanced pilot ratings. A former member of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or Wasps, she was an FAA flight examiner and was the first woman to qualify to make takeoffs and landings in a jet aboard an aircraft carrier.
CAF Rise Above: Profiles of the WASP, Velta Haney Benn
WASP Class W-44-7
Planes flown: PT-17, BT-13, AT-6, PT-22
Assigned Bases: Merced Army Air Field (Calif.)
Velta was born in Vienna, Virginia, where she grew up with a love of aviation.
When she learned of America’s desperate need for military pilots, and the Army Air Forces’ recently enacted training program to teach women pilots to fly military aircraft ‘the Army way,’ she applied for the program. She was one of ninety-eight women pilots from all over America who was accepted as a member of class 44-7 and reported for training to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.
After 7 months of the Army Air Forces’ flight training, she graduated with fifty-eight of her classmates on 8 September 1944.
Velta was then stationed at Merced Army Air Field in California. There she flew At-6s as an administrative pilot, flying personnel from one base to another, as well as flying BT-13s on observation flights and as an instrument instructor, teaching AAF male pilots how to fly by instruments alone. She remained there until the WASP were disbanded on 20 December, 1944.
After hanging up her WASP parachute, Velta worked in different aviation related jobs, helping to produce aviation training films, researching safety and landing procedures off carriers for the Navy, and was an FAA accident prevention counselor. In addition, she was an FAA pilot examiner for private, commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings, with over 27,000 flight hours to her credit.
In 1983, Velta Benn was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame, and on March 10, 2010, she, together with 1,101 WASP peers, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can give a civilian.
On December 1, 2010, Velta passed away at her residence in Alexandria, Virginia, less than 20 miles from where she grew up and learned to fly. She was ninety-three years old.