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Jacqueline Cochran is a pioneering 20th century pilot who was an advocate for female aviators during WWII and the first woman to break the sound barrier.
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Born in the early 20th century in rural West Florida, Jacqueline Cochran was a beautician before turning to aviation and becoming a major figure. She advocated for female aviator involvement in WWII and led the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots training program. In 1953, she became the first woman to reach the sound barrier and has held the most speed and distance records of any flier in history.
Aviator Jacqueline Cochran was born on May 11, 1910, in Pensacola, Florida. During her flying career, Jacqueline Cochran set many new records in aviation and became the first woman to break the sound barrier in 1953. This great pilot’s life got off to a rocky start. She lost both parents as an infant and grew up in the foster care system.
Jacqueline Cochran first took the air in 1932, earning her license that year. A true adventurer at heart, she participated the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race for the first time in 1935. Cochran won the race and set the transcontinental record in 1938.
During World War II, Jacqueline Cochran served abroad in the British Air Force Auxiliary as a captain. She later returned to the United States and ran the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots program. For her work to support the war, Cochran received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.
Seeking new challenges, Jacqueline Cochran flew an F-86 Sabre fighter plane in 1953—becoming the first woman to fly faster than sound. She outdid herself in 1964 when she flew faster than twice the speed of sound. In total, it is believed that Cochran set more than 200 records during her career.
Jacqueline Cochran died on August 9, 1980, in Indio, California.
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