TIL that during World War II, USAAF Col. Paul Tibbetts was frustrated with his pilots complaining about how hard it was to fly the new B-29 bomber. He arranged for two women WASP pilots to be trained on the big plane and had them fly it around the country just to shame the men. It worked. : todayilearned


Tibbets’ men were putting up unprecedented resistance. In point of fact, the pilots had every reason to be wary. The B-29 was not only much larger and heavier than any bomber the U.S. had flown before, it also hadn’t gone through the years of operational testing to which Boeing had subjected its predecessor the B-17. Initially engine fires were one of the major problems. The planes’ Wright engines were often called the Wrong engines. Part of the trouble could be traced to the engine cowlings that were too tight and often caused fires even before the planes had taken off. Although engine improvements were made over time, fires remained a problem throughout World War II.

Tibbets decided that the way to convince the men to fly the plane was to show that women could do it. The young Colonel recruited Dora Dougherty and Dorothea Moorman to be his demo pilots. Dougherty remembers that at that point, she had never even been in a four-engine plane before. Tibbets did not warn his new recruits of the engine fire problem. Instead he trained them to take off without the standard power checks.

Really, he was shaming the male pilots into ignoring their valid concerns about safety, and putting the women in harm’s way by not even telling them about possible problems. It’s not really the feel-good thing the title implies.



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