PEMBROKE PINES, Fla - The aviation industry said goodbye to one of its pioneers. Helen Snapp was one of the first female pilots who served this country with honor and distinction. She died yesterday in Pembroke Pines, from complications after a hip surgery. She was 94 years old.
Like most anyone who achieves greatness, it was never something Snapp set out to do. Two years ago, Snapp welcomed me into her home and took me back to 1943, when she learned to fly military aircraft.
I asked Snapp if she was afraid. Her response was "No, I don't recall being afraid."
Soon after getting her license, Snapp heard about the women of Air Force Service Pilots, known as WASPS. It was a program born out of a big demand during World War II, when aviators were in short supply. But Snapp says the women in aviation were quickly forgotten about.
"It was completely left out of the history books," said Snapp.
Snapp flew numerous target missions. Her secret assignments came by telegram, directly from the Pentagon. She says the Memphis Belle was one of her favorite planes. But Snapp would only serve a year in the WASP program before it was deactivated in 1944, becoming classified information. It was not to be talked about until 1979 when only then Snapp, and other WASPS were recognized as veterans.
"It wasn't glamorous like people thought it was; and it was a challenge; and we loved every minute of it, because we loved flying…so to me that's the way I remember it."
It took another 30 years for Snapp to get the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama.
"I don't feel like a pioneer at all, I just feel like a pilot, an old pilot and a happy pilot."
Snapp is survived by her two sons. They would like donations sent to the Wings Over Miami Museum or the Florida Gold Coast 99s (a women's pilot association) in lieu of flowers.
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