Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran

Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran was born into poverty in the Florida Panhandle. At a young age, she became determined to make something of herself and to do great things and that she did.
Becoming a beautician was her initial route to a better life. The next step was to get her pilot’s license and with that, she was on her way. Within two years, she had entered her first air race. This was 1934, and there weren’t many women pilots. She started to race airplanes against men who still considered air racing a “men’s sport”. Much to the male pilot’s surprise, she was very good and in 1938 beat them all to win the prestigious Bendix Trophy cross-country Air Race!
As WWII started in Europe, Jackie found a way to help by flying Lockheed Hudson bombers over the Atlantic to the RAF in England. In doing so, she became the first woman to pilot a bomber over the North Atlantic. On one occasion, her airplane was shot at by the enemy.
When the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the WASPs were formed, Jackie became the Commanding Officer. For her work in support of the war, she received the Distinguished Service medal.
With the war’s end, Jackie went back into air racing and record-breaking flights. In 1953 she did an “aviation first” in a spectacular way. In the airspace above Edwards Air Force Base, while flying a Canadian-built F-86 Sabre jet, she became the first woman to break the sound barrier! She did this by climbing the jet to a high altitude, rolling it upside down and pointing it straight down at full power. The telemetry showed that she had done it, but she did it a second time just to make sure!
A few years later, she would be flying twice the speed of sound in a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. With this, she held more speed, distance, and altitude records than any other pilot, ever.
Jackie Cochran was a long-time resident of the Coachella Valley with her home just off of Monroe Street in Indio.
Jackie Cochran with her Beechcraft Staggerwing.
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