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. A resident of Long Beach for over half a century, Barbara was born in Seattle, WA on July 1, 1920. In 1939, the Home Ec. major enrolled in flight school, beginning a life marked by "firsts." She said, "flying seemed much more exciting than cooking a soufflé." Barbara earned her license flying seaplanes on Seattle's Lake Union. She then instructed Navy cadets to fly up until World War II. She also worked for Boeing as a B-17 wing assembler. 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 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 and raised a family of pilots. Barbara remained an enthusiastic aviation ambassador: she co-founded the Long Beach Chapter of the Ninety-Nines; helped establish and raced in the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race – also know as the Powder Puff Derby; and worked tirelessly as a member of the Long Beach Airport Commission. Barbara also owned and operated Barney Frazier Aircraft, Inc. until she retired in 2005. For many years, Barbara was Long Beach Airport, 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 (who worked at Barney Frazier, Inc. as well as Jet Blue in Long Beach), four grandchildren (all pilots) and five great-grandchildren. Barbara's husband, Jack London Jr., preceded her in death in 1973. Please sign the guest book at www.presstelegram.com/obits.
Published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Sept. 1, 2013