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"I had no sense of fear. In fact... when they learned about it (first flight), my family said I had no sense, period."

Achsa Donnels

Achsa Donnels




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An Evening with Achsa

On February 19, 1999 our chapter was lucky enough to have Achsa Barnwell Peacock Holfelder Donnels, charter member of The Ninety-Nines, as our guest for MB99s with Achsa  2/99an evening of story-telling and book signing. She delighted us with stories from her flying days - how she fell in love with flying, her husbands and life itself.

We spent a pleasant evening asking her questions such as what was her private pilot checkride like. Turns out back in '28 the examiner wouldn't get in the airplane with a woman so she did what he asked her to do in the air with him watching on the ground!

She told us of week-end flights in her Waco out of Bakersfield to the LA Basin and San Fernando Valley to visit friends and do little shopping - one of these flights saw the LA Basin fogged in and the sun setting. Achsa (and her oblivious passenger) had to do some quick calculations about where she was and do some blind faith Achsa with Michaele Serasioflying to land at the airport. As she says, she flew to where she thought the airport should be, saw some lights through the fog, started a descent and there it was! Caddo Field with two beautiful runways. Her passenger was blissfully unaware that there was any kind of problem...

She loved her Jenny. It's what she learned in back in 1923. As she said "I could imagine that I was sitting on the edge of a cloud, looking out over the whole world... In those days there was no smog, and you could smell fragrances of oranges, or whatever you were flying over at all altitudes. The scenery was fantastic." Achsa & Theresa Levandoski

Achsa is a charter member of The Ninety-Nines, being one the original 99 (out of 117 licensed women pilots at the time) to respond to an invitation to organize in 1929. She told us of her friends, Bobbie Trout, Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes to name a few. She talked about the early years of The Ninety-Nines and the Southwest Section.

Changes in aviation? Mind-boggling. Taildragger to tricycle planes was a change that she regretted. She feels that everybody needs to learn in a taildragger - you have more feel for the plane. And all those instruments. When she learned, it was altimeter, airspeed indicator, tach and oil gauge - nothing like today's plane. She loved an open cockpit with the wind surging around her head unlike the closed cockpits of today.Donna Crane-Bailey & Achsa

She told stories and tales for a while more, received a certificate of appreciation from Donna Crane-Bailey and then was kind enough to sign her new autobiography, Achsa, for each of us.

It was a wonderful and unforgettable evening with an aviation pioneer.

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