Ninety-Nines' museum, headquarters promote women in aviation history

99s Museum of Women Pilots features Amelia Earhart and other notable women pilots.
BY SANDI DAVIS Published: August 14, 2012

In 1929, 86 women pilots met to form an organization that wasn't named until two years later, when 99 female pilots met again.

The Ninety-Nines were born. The women, including famed pilot Amelia Earhart, banded together to promote women in the aviation industry.

Their mission is to promote advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and mutual support while honoring their unique history and sharing their passion for flight.

Today, the Ninety-Nines Inc. International Organization of Women Pilots have members worldwide with chapters scattered around the globe and one in cyberspace. Their international headquarters is in a two-story building near Will Rogers World Airport. Why here? Oklahoma City is centrally located.

The headquarters itself takes up most of the bottom floor, with several exhibits scattered around, showing what the Ninety-Nines are about.

The second floor houses the 99s Museum of Women Pilots. It is filled with mementos from aviation history, from the first female pilot, Harriet Quimby, who got her license to fly in 1911, to displays of women in the American space program.

Both floors have an afternoon's worth of exhibits that not only inform, but enchant.

Earhart is well represented here, with pride of place given to a scarf she often wore. There is no explanation why it wasn't around her neck when she left on that final flight 75 years ago. Her family donated it to the Ninety-Nines museum.

Its aura is enhanced when you know that astronaut Marine Lt. Col. Randy Bresnik took it up on the space shuttle Atlantis on STS-129 in November 2009. Bresnik is the grandson of Earhart's personal photographer, Albert Bresnick.

Albert Bresnik wanted to go on Earhart's final flight, but he was denied a seat because she needed the space and weight for fuel.

A glassed display case has her scarf, photos of both Albert and Randy Bresnik — Albert with Earhart and Randy in his spacesuit — a mission patch, and a photo of Earhart and the scarf floating by the porthole of the shuttle, clearly in space.

The museum also gives visitors a look at Earhart's pilot's license. The one displayed now is a copy. The real one is on display at the Smithsonian.

Hilary Swank autographed a poster from her 2009 movie about Earhart's life — “Amelia” — and it's on display too.

The older displays show just how far flight fashion has come. Flight suits from the early days are there, some obviously made for men, but the museum includes a getup that coverts from a skirt to a shirt and back again so ladies are always property clothed when not in the cockpit. The design is patented.

Mathilde Moisant, the second woman to get her pilot's license, wrote about women's flying gear, saying, “A veil has no place in aviation,” a somewhat scandalous statement at the time.

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