Mary Feik, whose career encompassed a wide range of aviation achievements, was born in Cleveland. Her interest in airborne transportation first took shape when she was only seven. A stunt pilot flying a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane visited the Cleveland area at that time and took Feik for a ride in the aircraft. The experience made her a huge aviation fan for life.
By the time she turned 11, Feik had already learned to weld. She eventually put that skill and other mechanical abilities to effective use while working on various types of aircraft. Feik became such an undisputed expert when it came to planes that, not long after the U.S. entry into World War II, she began teaching military aircraft maintenance to crew chiefs and mechanics for the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Feik has also been credited with becoming the first female engineer in research and development at the Air Technical Services Command’s engineering division at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Ohio. During an era in which males dominated the military aircraft universe, Feik logged over 6,000 hours in such capacities as flight engineer for the B-29 Boeing Superfortress; an engineering observer; and a pilot for the North American P-51 Mustang, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and Bell P-63 Kingcobra. In addition, the pilot training manuals and technical engineering reports that she wrote were distributed extensively throughout the armed forces.
Another significant part of Feik’s aviation career entailed working as a restoration specialist for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) of the Smithsonian Institution. Specifically, she helped repair and rebuild historic aircraft at NASM’s Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland. Feik also became heavily involved in the Civil Air Patrol, serving in that civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force from 1982 to 2004.
Feik was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 1994. A couple of years later, she received the Federal Aviation Administration’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award in recognition of her contributions to aviation safety. Feik was the first woman to receive this award. She died in 2016 at the age of 92.
For more information on Mary Feik, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Feik.