women in aviation and space history

Nancy Love

Nancy Love
NASM-96-15604
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Nancy Love

World War II (205)

Nancy Harkness Love learned to fly in Houghton, Michigan, in 1930 at the age of 16. She was educated at Milton Academy and Vassar College and earned her commercial pilot's license while in college. In 1935 she was one of three women hired by the Bureau of Air Commerce to work on its air-marking project. Married to Robert Love in 1936, she discovered on her West Coast honeymoon that Beechcraft Company had entered her in the Amelia Earhart Trophy Race at the National Air Races in Los Angeles. With no experience in pylon flying, she managed to finish in fifth place. She also worked for Gwinn Aircar Company, a job that included flight testing a new tricycle landing gear. Love and her husband were running a successful aircraft sales business in 1940 when she began flying American airplanes to Canada, for shipment to France. With the approach of World War II, Love recognized the coming need for pilots to ferry aircraft and identified highly qualified women pilots in the U.S. who could perform such duties. In September 1942, the Army Air Corps' Air Transport Command approved the creation of a temporary, civilian women's flying corps, the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), under the direction of Nancy Love. Initially, Jacqueline Cochran's Women's Flying Training Detachment classes graduated into the WAFS. In 1943, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) combined these two organizations, with Cochran as the overall director; Love remained in charge of the WAFS unit, although under Cochran. The WAFS moved thousands of military aircraft form factories and air bases around the country with an enviable record of safety and professionalism. After the war, Love continued to fly for business and pleasure.

(information compiled by D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez)