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Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish

Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish

1922-2010

Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish was born in New York City, New York in 1922. She is noted for her daring, courageous spirit and is a true pioneer of women in aviation.

After spending her early childhood in France, Sue moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1929, taking her first flying lesson at Austin Lake Airport from aviation pioneer Irving Woodhams, at age 18. Determined to participate in the war effort through flying, Sue contacted the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), only to be told she was not old enough. After receiving her commercial license, instrument rating and instructor's rating, she was notified that a place in the next WASP class would be hers if she could pass the physical on her 21st birthday.

Joining the WASP 44-W-6 class in 1944, she was sent upon graduation to the Army Airforce Instrument Instruction School in Bryan, Texas. At a time when women aviators were not welcomed there, she completed her training and was asked to stay on, becoming a back-to-service test pilot for the AT-6. Her duties included testing new navigational aids, training combat pilots sent back to learn new instrument techniques, test flying repaired AT-6's to make sure they were airworthy, and slow flying new aircraft to check their engine operation.

Stymied in her bid for an aviation career upon the disbandment of the WASPs, Sue left aviation only to return to civilian flying after almost 15 years, with the purchase of a single-engine 35C Bonanza. Enjoying a shared enthusiasm for World War II planes with her husband, their collection of planes grew to include a restored P-40N Warhawk, which Sue flew for many years on the airshow circuit performing acrobatics. In partnership with her husband, the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, a living history of World War II aviation, was opened in 1979.

Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish was enshrined on October 22, 1994 as a pioneer of women in aviation and for her love and dedication to preserving aviation history. She passed away May 13, 2010.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program