women in aviation and space history

Patty Wagstaff

Patty Wagstaff
NASM-94-9327
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Patty Wagstaff

Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight (208)

In 1991, Patty Wagstaff became the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, a title she then defended in 1992 and 1993. Wagstaff, now based in St. Augustine, Florida, was raised in Japan and worked as a model and a shipwreck diver in Australia before moving to Alaska in 1978. There she began flight instruction in a Cessna 185 on floats and earned her private pilot license in 1979. Wagstaff moved quickly to earn her commercial and instrument ratings for single and multi-engine aircraft and seaplanes. She entered her first aerobatic competition in 1984 and moved to the Unlimited category (most proficient) in only two years. Wagstaff was a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team, which competes in world competition every two years, until her retirement from competition in 1996. Today, Wagstaff is a premier aerobatic pilot in air shows throughout the United States, performing dynamic and precise routines in her Extra 300L. She is also a commercially rated helicopter pilot, a flight instructor for unlimited aerobatics, and she flies for motion pictures and television. Wagstaff is a four-time winner of the Betty Skelton First Lady of Aerobatics Trophy and was the 1995 recipient of the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement in Aviation. She is the author, with Ann Cooper, of her autobiography, Fire and Air: A Life on the Edge. The aircraft in which she became U.S. National Aerobatic Champion is the Extra 260, a German-built aircraft which is on display in the America by Air gallery. In 2004, Wagstaff was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

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