encountered few prejudiced people on diff erent airfi elds working with diff erent fl yboys.” “I never tried to be one of the

guys,” Feik remarked. “I was always a team member and a lady. That’s what really counts.” Nevertheless Feik recalled that she was not immediately accepted on her new job at Wright Field until after she successfully completed her fi rst assignment. Gaining the respect of her co- workers, Feik was soon working on fi ghter pilot simulators and restoring vintage aircraft to be recycled into fl ight trainers.

THE COLONEL Although remaining in Ohio, Feik left her engineering job at Wright- Patterson AF Base in the mid 1950s. She became a wife and mother and worked for the American Red Cross until she and her husband moved to Maryland. By 1977 she began what she described as her “dream job.” For the following 10 years she worked restoring rare vintage aircraft for the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum at its Paul Garber facility outside Washington, D.C. She often described the joy of working on an authentic WWI Spad and of the research required for her to use the proper types of linen with which to cover the wooden wings on early aircraft. Throughout these years Feik fl ew and maintained her own aircraft which she hangared at a nearby airport. In 1996, Feik received the honorary Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award for her 50 years working as an aircraft maintenance technician. She is believed to be the fi rst woman to receive this award. Since joining the CAP in 1975,

Feik shared her skills with young cadets. She rose to the rank of colonel and received many honors. According

to her family she was most proud of the 2002 creation of the Mary Feik Achievement milestone award for cadets. Feik’s professional skills as a mechanic, instructor and restoration expert are probably best understood and admired by those men and women who now have the same jobs. A co-worker rememberd her as “an amazing person who broke the glass ceiling in so many ways. I never heard anyone say a bad word about Mary. She did everything she could to help people.” For several years, the Experimental

Aircraft Association (EAA) has video-taped those with unique stories about their aviation career, under the project title “Timeless Voices in Aviation.” It has captured oral histories of men and women of diverse backgrounds, including Feik. The taping session runs about one hour but for Internet viewing it is edited down to about fi ve minutes. To watch Feik’s interview, visit the EAA’s Web site menu for “Timeless Voices of Aviation”: museum-collection/timeless-voices- of-aviation-video-diaries. Meanwhile, here is a selection

of Feik’s remarks in response to questions from newspaper and magazine reporters in articles spanning 1977-2015, and in which she remains consistently candid:

A LOVE OF AIRPLANES Nothing gets me higher emotionally than fl ying. [1977]

My love of airplanes hasn’t diminished one iota. It’s still a thrill to watch a plane fl y. [2002]

I have a house in Broadneck (Maryland) but I live here (at the airport). [1998]

A WOMAN IN THE SHOP I tried not making a big deal out of it, doing it quietly and nonchalantly. I did it by the book, too, so the only diff erence would be that I am a woman; they wouldn’t have anything else to pin on me. [1984]

I never minded getting my hands dirty. [1998]

I never tried to be one of the guys. I was always a team member and a lady. That’s really what it takes. [1998]


FATHER’S ADVICE For the females: Always be a lady. Don’t be one of the guys.

For the males: Always be a gentleman. [2008]

A LOVE FOR ALL CREATURES My father was always one to take care of creatures he saw. [1998]

Feik gave her father credit for teaching her the joys of engines and how to work well with others. He also taught her to love animals, as do I. I know I’d have enjoyed meeting Feik but not at her house. There, for 20 years, she kept a tarantula and a rattlesnake.

Giacinta Bradley Koontz

is an aviation historian, magazine columnist and author who has received the

DAR History Medal and honorable mention from the New York Book Festival. She has appeared on the History Channel and in PBS documentaries. For more information, visit

16 | july 2017

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