Peggy Wayne, Sky Girl

by Betty Baxter Anderson Cupples & Leon, 1941

Several years ago an airline executive made a particularly bumpy trip ... The weather was bad ... He thought "If there were some good-looking girls [on this flight] these men would be too busy thinking up bright remarks to stew about the storm." (page 11)

You may remember Jane, Stewardess of the Airlines, the 1934 "career romance" reviewed in the March 1993 TWW. Now meet Peggy. Jane was from Chicago, and flew out of Cheyenne. Peggy is from Des Moines and flies out of Chicago. And Peggy's story has a lot more facts and figures and a lot less plot and incident, which is very engaging, in its way. Consider: Peggy has complete care of the twenty passengers (and two crew members) on her DC-3. Chicago Municipal Airport (in 90s terms, Chicago Midway) is a large modern airport with 150 flights a day, but she is told that Cleveland's is even better, and as for that new LaGuardia Airport (with its eight hangars) that they've just built in New York . . .

Smoking is not only allowed, it's encouraged - the airline provides complimentary cigarettes. If you fly from New York to Chicago, you get a five-course dinner. The crew boards the plane by stepladder before the aircraft comes out of the hangar.

The characters spend a lot of time quoting statistics at each other: a stewardess starts at a hundred a month, plus meals on duty, and it goes up to $160 - the Boeing Clipper has a wingspread of more than 150 feet - La Guardia was built at a cost of more than 40 million (Depression-era) dollars - the Stratoliner can climb 12,000 feet a minute - Jacqueline Cochran set a record of 305 mph on a flight from Burbank to San Francisco in 1939. It's all very educational.

The outstanding thing about Peggy Wayne, Sky Girl, though, is its emphasis on the new aviation-related careers. It's not just Peggy and her roommates - an intern she knew at the Des Moines hospital becomes a flight surgeon, and Peggy's ambition is to become a transport pilot, a vocational area not yet open to women. (On the other hand, the story is set just before Pearl Harbor, and the author probably knew that war was about to change that situation!) Nearly a whole chapter is devoted to the "young woman" (she started her business in 1933, and this is 1941) who supplies the in-flight meals to Skylines, Inc.

Unlike Jane, Peggy does not learn skydiving, work as a movie extra (although she saves the life of an actress on her first flight), or frustrate a kidnapping. She does, however, take part in a rescue run to deliver medical help in a blizzard - which gives her and the readers a chance to learn about the Aerial Nurse Corps.

What plot there is, is provided by Inez Hunt, a nursing school classmate of Peggy's, who shares an apartment with Peggy and her friend Jane. Although Peggy and Jane sometimes resent her unfair share of the limited closet space, they don't realize they really have a problem until Inez's superb cooking earns Peggy a warning from her supervisor - her weight has gone over 110 pounds and she could be grounded!

Stymied in her attempts to take over Peggy's pilot friend Tex, or Jane's doctor friend Ben, Inez isn't much seen (although they continue to see much of her clothes) until she gets involved in an attempt to hijack the new pressurized Stratoliner on its maiden flight. Peggy, of course, is the flight attendant, and (by breaking a window to depressurize the cabin) she not only disables the three hijackers and cares for the unconscious pilot and navigator, but also lands the plane safely - in Dallas - before she passes out.

This triumph leads to her getting a cautious go-ahead in her try for a transport pilot's seat, and (rather as an afterthought) Tex proposes, too. The interesting touch to his proposal is that it is in the presence of his and Peggy's boss, and Tex stipulates that there are to be no silly regulations about female pilots having to resign when they marry, as flight attendants must!

© 1999 Jo Anne Fatherly. This article appeared in The Whispered Watchword, newsletter of The Phantom Friends.