peoplepill id: nellie-zabel-willhite
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Nellie Zabel Willhite

Nellie Zabel Willhite

American deaf female aviator
Nellie Zabel Willhite
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American deaf female aviator
Was Aviator Pilot Aircraft pilot
From United States of America
Type Military
Gender female
Birth 22 November 1892, Box Elder, USA
Death 2 September 1991 (aged 98 years)
Star sign Sagittarius
Peoplepill ID nellie-zabel-willhite
The details


Eloise or Eleanor "Nellie" Zabel Willhite (Born November 22, 1892 – September 2, 1991) was the first deaf woman to earn a pilot's license, as well as South Dakota's first female pilot.


Willhite was born in Rapid City or Box Elder, South Dakota to Charley "Pard" Zabel and Lillian Madison Zabel. Willhite became deaf at age two due to measles. There have been sources that claim she was deafened at age four instead of two. She attended South Dakota School for the Deaf and worked as a typist in Pierre, South Dakota until she enrolled in an aviation school. Willhete started flying lessons in November 1927, with her dad paying for it. She earned her pilot's license in 1928 Willhite was the thirteenth to sign up in a class of eighteen and made her first solo flight on January 13, 1928 after getting thirteen hours of instruction. She was the first female pilot to earn a pilot's license in South Dakota.

Willhete was a founding member of the Ninety-Nines, an organization which was founded in 1929 with 99 female pilots as founding members, and is dedicated to the advancement of aviation and support for women in aviation. Willhite started the first South Dakota chapter of the Ninety-Nines in 1941. She worked as a commercial pilot until 1944 (the first deaf person to do so), carrying airmail. She also worked as a barnstormer, specializing in flour bombing and balloon racing.

Willhete was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1978 and South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame shortly before her death in 1991, and her plane the Pard is now on display at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Alabama.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 07 Feb 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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