LB Airport Street Named For Pioneering Aviator Barbara Erickson London
(March 25, 2005) -- Not even a light drizzle dampened Mayor Beverly O'Neill's enthusiasm -- "it brought us all in here [inside the lobby of a LB airport area business], we're closer" she said -- in joining local officials, airport management and business representatives to celebrate the dedication of "Barbara London Dr." a street connecting the west and eastbound legs of Donald Douglas Drive, named for aviation pioneer Barbara Erickson London.
LBReport.com provides extended transcript excerpts below.
Among those attending the ceremony were Ms. London's two daughters...who followed their mother into the air: Terry London Rinehart (left, piloted commercial aircraft) and Kristy Ardizzone (licensed private pilot, now executive with JetBlue Airways).
Among the roughly three dozen people attending the ceremony, we spotted Airport Advisory Commission chair Alan Fox, Commission members Bob Luskin and Deborah Veady; MillionAir proprietor Glenn Ray and LB Chamber Representative Judy Nelson.
Ms. London heard her role in aviation history detailed and lauded. Extended transcript excerpts follow:
Airport Manager Chris Kunze: ...It's very exciting to me and all of us, I think, that Barbara is still very actively participating in airport affairs and issues...She was an airport advisory commissioners; she's on the board of a business association here on the airport; she gives speeches all the time; it's great to have her here.
...For those of you who have seen our aviation historical exhibit in the terminal building, one component of that is Women in Aviation. And Barbara is the centerpiece of that exhibit, and virtually every day we see groups of people standing around that reading all about Barbara...
Vice Mayor Jackie Kell: ...Barbara did such an outstanding job that she was awarded the Air Medal by General Hap Arnold, and I think you were the only woman flier in the military who received that particular medal because she flew four transcontinental flights in five days...So I'm very glad to honor you for what you've done, and thank you for what you've not only done for Long Beach, but what you've done for women and what you've done for your country.
Mayor Beverly O'Neill: ...We all lead our lives one day at a time, and when you're young, you don't think that they add up to anything...But when you do something young in your life that adds up and adds up and adds up, all of sudden you have a legacy. And that's what we have here today: we have a legacy. We have a legacy for the United States. We have a legacy for women. We have a legacy for Long Beach...
Barbara Erickson London: ...I'm anything but a "legacy." This has been my home for a long time. I'm terribly honored with all of this. I think. maybe at 85, I can be a legacy. (audience laughter)...My last sixty years have mainly been based at Long Beach Airport...It's a great part of my life. Thank you all for this honor...I'm overwhelmed...
Kristy Ardizzone:...I look around the room, this really is a family effort and this really is a family airport for all of us, where we all grew up here...learning how to fly...I'm incredibly proud to be a part of this family, incredibly proud to be her sister, her daughter
And along those lines of extended family...she [Ms. London] is also part of another big extended family...This is Jeff Landry, the new director with JetBlue Airways.
Jeff Landry: I would like to thank Barbara on behalf of the approximately 8,000 crewmembers of JetBlue Airways for her contributions to aviation, women's aviation and to the community of Long Beach, the airport...on behalf of the crewmembers of JetBlue Airways, I'd like to present to you a JetBlue model aircraft [oohs and aahs]...
Ms. London: One of the sad parts of my life was that I was never able fly one of these. When I got out of the military in 1945, I applied for every airline, because I had just as much time as the boys and I didn't see why I couldn't be an airline pilot. The world wasn't quite ready for a woman in the cockpit, unfortunately. And it took a lot of years before [daughter] Terry was the first woman hired by Western Airlines as the first woman airline pilot. And that's what I wanted to do so badly after the war. It took a while, but they finally got to us. (applause)
Terry London Rinehart: ...I soloed here. I learned to fly here. My first job was here at Long Beach. When I flew in here as a pilot for Western, and when I flew in here as pilot for Delta, it was the most fun I've ever had flying into any airport because this is where I learned to fly. This is where my heart is...
...and I'm just really thrilled to see my Mom's name up on this street...
In documenting Ms. Erickson London's exploits, the Wright Patterson Air Force Base military web site says that after graduating from the University of Washington, Miss Erickson flew seaplanes as well as landplanes...and was invited to join the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). She was transferred to LB Beach Army Air Base where she became commanding officer for all WAFS, and later WASPs, assigned to the 6th Ferrying Group, Air Transport Command.
In 1943, Ms. Erickson flew 8,000 miles in the course of ten days, leaving LB in a P-51 "Mustang," which she delivered to Evansville, IN...and on the next day picked up a P-47 "Thunderbolt", which she delivered to San Pedro, CA. She then took off from LB in a C-47 which she delivered to Fort Wayne, IN. and was thereafter assigned another P-47 to be delivered to San Pedro.
The Wright-Patterson Air Force military web site states in part:
"Her logged time for these days is not available. On the basis of the type of aircraft involved and the mileage as given, she may be estimated to have piled up at least forty hours -- as much as one of the 2nd Ferrying Group WASPs could have hoped for in a full month. For these flights, Miss Erickson was awarded the Air Medal, the only one awarded to a WASP during WW II (note: more medals were awarded after the war)."