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Barbara Jane Erickson "BJ" London

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Barbara Jane Erickson "BJ" London Obituary
Barbara Jane "BJ" Erickson London

Barbara Jane "BJ" Erickson London, 93, passed with dignity and grace on July 7, 2013 at home with her family in Los Gatos, CA. Barbara was born in Seattle, WA on July 1, 1920 to Joel and Vera Erickson. In 1939, while attending the University of Washington as a Home Economics major, Barbara enrolled in flight school, beginning a life marked by "firsts". She said, "flying seemed much more exciting than cooking a souffle;". Barbara earned her license at Lana Kurtzer's Flying Service flying seaplanes on Seattle's Lake Union. She instructed Navy cadets to fly at Kurtzer's up until World War II. During her senior year at the UW, Barbara was a member of the B-17 wing assembly team at Boeing Aircraft Plant 2. In 1942, Barbara joined the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. As a WAFS/WASP ferry pilot, Barbara became one of the first women to fly military aircraft. Serving in Long Beach, CA as the 6th Ferrying Group WASP Squadron Commander, she remained there until the group was disbanded in 1944. In 1943, Barbara distinguished herself by flying four 2,000-mile trips transporting P-47s, P-51s and C-47s, making her the first ferry pilot to fly 8,000 miles in 5 days. This feat earned her the Army Air Medal. She was the only woman awarded the Air Medal during WWII. When Barbara flew her first B-17 bomber she became the first woman to build and then fly the Flying Fortress. By the time the WASP were disbanded in 1944, Barbara had attained the rating of a Class P5 pilot, the highest level a military pilot could achieve. After the war, Barbara married Jack London, Jr., a Long Beach native and fellow ferry pilot. The two settled in Long Beach, CA and raised a family of pilots. Barbara remained an enthusiastic aviation ambassador her entire life. She co-founded the Long Beach Chapter of the Ninety-Nines; helped establish and raced in the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race - also known as the Powder Puff Derby; and owned and operated an aircraft sales business on the Long Beach Airport until she retired in 2005. In 1992 she was awarded the Seattle Museum of Flight's Pathfinder Award and in 2004 became the focus of the Museum's WWII WASP display in the Personal Wing of Courage. Barbara was known to all for her business acumen, willingness to mentor, war stories, jar of candy, and wicked sense of humor. Her door was always open. Long Beach honored her by renaming the road in front of the airport terminal, "Barbara London Drive". Barbara's aviation legacy continues to this day. In 2010, when the WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, Barbara's granddaughter piloted the jet that flew her to Washington D.C. Barbara is survived by two daughters, Terry London Rinehart (a Western/Delta Airlines pilot for 28 years) and Kristy Ardizzone, four grandchildren (all pilots), and five great-grandchildren. Barbara's husband, Jack London Jr., preceded her in death in 1973.
Published in The Seattle Times on Sept. 29, 2013
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