Gloria Heath 44-W-7 | WASP in the Spotlight 4-28-2023

Gloria Heath was born on May 7, 1922, in New York City to Royal Vale and Lillian Hart Heart. She graduated from The Putney School in 1939 and from Smith College in 1943, where she excelled as a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, ice hockey, and lacrosse.

During her time at Smith College, Gloria’s older brother Royal encouraged her to take up flying. After her first flight, given by his flight instructor, she wrote in her diary, “The view of earth from the plane was so peaceful, anxieties seemed to melt away.” For the rest of her life, flight held her captive.

She eventually convinced 14 other women at the college to take flying lessons with her. Together, they bought a plane and Gloria then founded the Smith College Flying Club. By the time she graduated, she had obtained her pilot’s license.

In 1944, Gloria was accepted into the WASP program class 44-W-5 at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. After graduating, she was assigned to Freeman Army Air Field in Seymour, Indiana, where she flew AT-6’s as an engineering test pilot. She later became a tow target pilot at Pocatello Army Air Base in Idaho before her last assignment at Dalhart Army Airfield in Texas. The WASP program was deactivated on December 20, 1944.

After the end of World War II, Gloria began working in the field of aviation safety and founded the Flight Safety Foundation. She played a significant role in designing and developing the electronic locator “black box,” which became a requirement in all civil aircraft in 1972. Gloria’s contributions to flight safety were recognized with the Amelia Earhart Award in 1957 and the Laura Tabor Barbour International Air Safety Award in 1965. In 1999, she was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneering Hall of Fame, and in 2001, she was listed as one of the 100 most influential women in aviation by Women in Aviation International. Gloria’s legacy as an inspiration to young women in aviation will continue to live on.

Written by: Ann Haub | Collections Director
Photos courtesy: National WASP WWII Museum Archives

Archives Contact:

Partner with the WASP Archive in achieving its mission to collect, protect, preserve, and provide access to materials that chronicle the WASP story, its legacy, and the personal and professional lives of its pilots. New artifacts are always welcome. Please call Ann Haub at 325-235-0099 or by emailing her at


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