Mary Gaffaney
GAFFANEY, MARY one of the World's greatest Aerobatic pilot, has passed away at age 91. Although Mary's residence and her businesses (Kendall Flying School/Kendall Gliderport) were located in Miami, Florida, Mary's life was spent in the air. At the age of 16, Mary began her long journey with aviation and never stopped flying towards her goal of achieving almost every rating known to the Aviation World. She was the first female skywriter in the US, first female helicopter pilot in Florida and first woman to win Gold medals in the World Aerobatic Competition in 1970 &1972. But Mary was known to have three other loves in her life: her husband, her mother and her animals. Mary was predeceased by her husband, Charles Gaffaney, and her mother, Letty Tracy. She is survived by her brother, Jack Tracy. The viewing will be held at Miami Memorial Funeral Home-Westchester at 12 noon on Saturday Dec 16 followed by burial at 2 pm. In lieu of flowers, any donations in memoriam to Mary should be made to the ASPCA.
Published by the Miami Herald on Dec. 15, 2017.
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45 Entries
I continue to miss this great Lady and internationally acclaimed aviator. It was a distinct honor to have her as a friend. As a FAA Inspector I was also privileged to have worked with her in association with her DPE authorization.
Jack A Milavic
December 9, 2021
I obtained my Commercial at Kendall flying school in 1958. One time Mary took me up and showed me how to loop a J3 Cub. Those were great days !
Delbert Mueller
June 18, 2021
Mary was the FAA examiner who performed the checkride for my private helicopter rating at Tamiami airport in 1981. We flew an Enstrom F-28A (N28HW) out of Tamiami and around the local area. I remember she was very much "by the book" but was congratulatory after the check ride was complete and I had passed. I have her endorsement in my log book and will always cheish that time and the opportunity to meet Mary.
Pat Hall
January 1, 2021
An honor to have known and flew with Mary.
Jack Milavic.
Jack Milavic
December 9, 2020
Mary, you taught me everything about flying, you gave me all my check rides and you were kind and understanding, but firm. I shall never forget you. RIP
Alfred Eric van Haren Noman, ASC
November 18, 2020
I had the good fortune, and the delight, to have interviewed Mary on the PBS television show Aviation Weather when I hosted the show in 1974. She was ever so gracious.
George Merriken
May 23, 2020
Got my first job in aviation with Mary in 1954 as instructor. That lead to Delta Airlines and now FlightSafety, Intl. Thanks Mary!
John Steiger
March 28, 2020
Mrs, Gaffaney was a hoot! I had the privilege to work for her at the flying school in 1969 and had many adventures there. A very wonderful woman indeed!!!
Lucy Turcotte
June 18, 2019
... a great photo of Mary, being interviewed after a competition, possibly the National Championship... this was taken by my Elaine Harrison, pretty sure at the Reno Air Races. (note: Bruce Jenner standing to the right side and pretty sure Bob Hoover is behind her (panama hat & flower shirt).
Peter Harrison
January 4, 2019
January 3, 2019
I was just watching a TV documentary about female aerobatic pilots and Mary came to mind. She gave me my checkride in the Bell 47G back in 1977 in Miami. I still remember her dogs. So sorry to hear of her passing.
Richard Ellis
June 27, 2018
Thank you for all you did for women in aviation; never had the opportunity to meet you but did participate with other members of the 1970-1972 team at the Abbottsford International Airshow.
Marilynn Laird
May 17, 2018
Mary, with Elaine Harrison & Bell 47 check ride (note the Kendall Flying School sign in the background)
Peter Harrison
May 16, 2018
Goodbye Mary, was so nice knowing you. I married Sharon her counter girl 51 years ago and we are still a happy couple.
Bob & Sharon Thrasher
Robert Thrasher
April 13, 2018
Sorry to hear of Mary's passing. I met Mary at Browns Airport in South Miami in 1956, rented one of her J3 Cubs, later at the old Tamiami Airport, where I received my instrument, and instructors ratings. Mary gave me my first flight instructors job, part time on week ends. She briefed me on my first flight in my S1S Pitts, Mary was one of the greatest aerobatic pilots.
April 1, 2018
Mary Gaffaney hired me for my first flying job as a flight instructor. I later found out that she gave my father his commercial license before he went to work for Delta Air Lines in the 1950s. She was a legend.
John Richards
March 28, 2018
She once said that she was in the business of molding the next generation of pilots. Thank you Mary.
Bill Anderson
March 20, 2018
What a great lady and instructor, she give me my Commercial Pilot check ride in 1970 on Cessna 172, at Kendall Flying School, Miami. She was strict, precise and briefed you on every
maneuvers I did. She had arranged a nice place for me to stay in Kendall close to the school.
It was a pleasure knowing her. I still maintain the logbook with her signature.
Vipan Nath
February 24, 2018
I walked into Kendall Flying School when I was 17 in February of 1977 and in June was sitting with Mary at the fuel pumps after successfully completing my Private Pilots check ride. Mary asked me "what do you want to do with your life" I said "I want to be a crop duster" she laughed and said "no you don't you want to be an airline pilot." 41 years later and I've retired from a major airline and started a second airline career. My first flight was in the ubiquitous Cessna 150 and my most recent flight was as a Captain of the "Queen of the Skies" the Boeing 747. All my success started at the gas pumps at Kendall Flying School. It was an honor and a blessing to have known Mary and Charley.
Brian Gradin
February 15, 2018
I first met Mary as a student at Kendall in 1968 when I was 16. She gave me my FAA check ride a few days after my 17th birthday. Later, I worked as a line boy on weekends and some evenings after school for about a year. Mary had two Pitts Specials back then and it was always an experience propping one of them so she could practice and "keep my flying in shape", as she would say.
She was a real flying pioneer and unsurpassed aerobatic champion; my condolences to the family.
Steve Stuart
February 10, 2018
... and my mother, Elaine Harrison, a great friend and flying soul mate, sends her love and blessings too ...
Peter Harrison
December 19, 2017
.... and my mother, Elaine Harrison, a special friend and flying soul mate, sends her love too ....
December 19, 2017
God Bless you Mary; a great friend and mentor to all my family .... several members of my family members received ratings under your superb teaching (private to helicopter). The flying habits you instilled and reinforced kept me out of trouble many times over several decades in the air .... Heaven has a special place for you and Charlie, with great affection from the Harrison family.
Peter Harrison
December 18, 2017
I have memories from the 1950s. I hope this link to my tribute web page work...
Fred Robbins
December 17, 2017
Met Mary in 1973 in Michigan and was impressed with her flying abilities. Will cherish the memories forever.
Ruth Jacobs
December 17, 2017

Sorry for the loss of your aunt. Please contact me. [email protected]
Truman Adkuns
December 17, 2017
Chuck Oliveros
December 17, 2017
I met her in the UK in 1970 when she was a member of the US Aerobatic Team at the World Championships. A superb pilot and a lovely lady. RIP Mary.
Barry Tempest
December 17, 2017
We have known Mary since the 1950's when we were neighbor's at the old Tamiami Airport and them the New Tamiami Airport. She was always a GREAT person and pilot. We (Mary G. Beazel, Peter S. Beazel, Merry Carol Beazel Chronister and John Chronister)owned American Aviation Corp. until 1973.
Merry Carol & John Chronister
December 16, 2017
Mary was one of a kind. A mentor to many and will be missed by many.
Corky Smith
December 16, 2017
Prayer & thoughts.RIP Mary, Blue Skies & Tail Winds. Bill Sablesak, Captain, UAL
Bill Sablesak
December 16, 2017
Another ledgend Gone West.....I enjoyed my time spent with you and Charlie at Air Sal....say Hi to Curtis for me!
Dale Evans
December 16, 2017
RIP MARY GAFFANEY.....One of the best female pilots that made the Pitts Biplane what it is today....! Mary, may you always fly with the Angels......
Wayne Morse
December 16, 2017
Thanks for my glider check out
john uhrich, jr
December 16, 2017
Fair Skies and tailwinds.
B. R.
December 16, 2017
Thank you for your friendly encouragement to kids back in the 70's at the Kissimmee Air Show. I always searched the program as soon as I got it to see if you were flying this year. Your flying was outstanding and inspired me and a few friends to pursue aviation. I have spent a lot of time at the airfield since then, and whenever I look out across the field can never imagine it without the ghosts of you and Bob Hoover doing amazing things in the air....
Randolph Bean
December 16, 2017
I was so fortunate to have flown with and known Mary. She remains a beloved icon in aviation. Fly high Mary and keep a place for us all. Penny
Penelope Couch-Nall
December 16, 2017
Mary was a household word in Miami Springs where my dad was a captain with National. Have a smooth flight west Mary. Bill Moore
December 16, 2017
I learned to fly at Kendall Flying School I had the privilege of working for her as her Chief Flight Instructor for a few years. She was a very private lady but I was fortunate to get to know her. The skies are emptier today. Fly high MTG.
Lorinda (Lori) Larkins Garufi
December 16, 2017
at age 16 Mary hired me as a line boy. Out of High school I became one of her instructors. She kept track of me thought my airline career. She was more a mother to me then anyone. Not only my boss, but teacher, mentor, and best friend. She was the one touch stone in my life.
Jim Goolsby
December 15, 2017
She gave me my first flying job as a flight instructor. I learned a great deal about flying , teaching, and working in a mans world. Belle Hutchins
Belle Hutchins
December 15, 2017
Mary you will be missed. I had the Pleasure of my Instrument instruction and check ride along with my Helicopter check ride with you. You and your Husband Charlie are the nicest people. When you retired you and Charlie bought my 231 Mooney and put a 1000 hrs on it !!! You are an Amazing Woman who left her mark in Aviation and will be remembered forever.

You have every rating there is. So many the FAA issued you TWO certificates as they didnt fit on one.

No you have another set of Wings.

God Bless You.

December 15, 2017
Sonny Chastain
December 15, 2017
Mary you are a HERO ! Thank you for being a Mentor to all!
Pamela Gallina
December 15, 2017
Had the pleasure of meeting Mary Gaffney when she provided my final FAA check ride and sign off for a private licence. She had a terrific reputation among all that I came in contact with in the field of aviation.A very kind and sweet lady RIP Ms.
Buddy Middleton
December 15, 2017
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