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Air Zoo co-founder to receive Congressional Gold Medal

March 9, 2010

Air Zoo co-founder Suzanne D. Parish will be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal on March 10, 2010 in the U.S. Capitol for her service with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

The WASP was an organization of 1,102 civilian female pilots trained to fly fighter, bomber, transport and training aircraft during World War II in defense of America's freedom. They were the first women in U.S. history to fly military aircraft under the direction of the U.S. Army Air Forces and were the catalyst for revolutionary reform in the integration of female pilots in the Armed Services.

"Sue Parish and the rest of the WASP voluntarily put their lives on the line for a program that proved women could successfully fly military aircraft," said Air Zoo President and CEO Bob Ellis. "They changed the role of women in aviation, becoming role models for today's female pilots and astronauts. The Congressional Gold Medal is a long-overdue honor for them."

As a member of the WASP 44-W-6 class of 1944, Parish tested new and repaired airplanes to make sure they flew properly, taught pilots how to use new navigation equipment and flew the AT-6-the most advanced training aircraft at that time-with combat pilots who returned to the U.S. to learn new instrument flying techniques.

The WASP will also be honored for their heroic and patriotic actions with the Spirit of Flight Award during the 2010 Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Air Zoo on April 17, 2010. The Spirit of Flight Award recognizes organizations for their outstanding achievements and dedication to aviation and/or space. Dorothy Eppstein of Kalamazoo, Doris Nathan of Kalamazoo, Mildred Jane Doyle of Grand Rapids and Sylvia Granader of Beverly Hills are the WASP still living in Michigan.

To learn more about the WASP and other female pioneers in aviation, visitors can check out the Daring to Dream: Women in Aviation exhibit located in the Air Zoo's East Campus.

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