Mary Barr

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Mary Barr
Mary Barr next to her transport plane, 1975
Mary Barr next to her transport plane, 1975
Born(1925-07-11)July 11, 1925
DiedMarch 1, 2010(2010-03-01) (aged 84)
OccupationAviator, safety officer, mechanic, flight instructor

Mary Barr (July 11, 1925 – March 1, 2010) was the first female aviator to join the US Forest Service,[1] along with being an accident prevention counselor, mechanic in a variety of fields, and flight instructor throughout her lifetime.


While living in Lorain, Ohio and working in a factory, Barr first learned how to fly aircraft in 1946 as part of a Piper club. She had dropped out of Oberlin College the year before in order to find a job to pay for flying lessons. After completing her training, she obtained a job training others to be commercial pilots.[2][3] During the end years of World War II, she decided to help build aircraft for the war, which led to her moving to New York City and joining a aircraft mechanic school.[3] This also involved acting alongside members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots to assist in transporting war goods and planes across the US.[4] The end of the war resulted in the Barrs moving to Susanville, California in 1949, and setting about running and improving the Susanville airport. After obtaining her certification in 1957, she obtained the position of FAA Pilot Examiner for Lassen County.[5] In 1964, Barr became one of the first four women to ever be a part of the Reno Air Races.[3] She placed second in the Reno National Championships in the Stock Plane Class using a Piper Cherokee.[6]

Beginning a career in the US Forest Service in 1974, she became the first female pilot to do so, being promoted to official staff after having worked with the Forest Service as a contract pilot for several years.[2][7] Her job entailed working as a lead plane pilot for the California North Zone Air Unit. Later in the 1970s, Barr moved to San Francisco to be an Aviation Safety Officer for the Forest Service, then becoming a National Aviation Safety Officer in Washington D. C., and finally moving to Sacramento, California in 1985 to act as Regional Safety Officer until her eventual retirement.[5][8] She was named as a member of the 2001 Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame for Women in Aviation, International[3] and directly honored by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.[8]

During her lifetime, Barr received a number of FAA certifications, including for "Commercial, Airline Transport Pilot, Flight Instructor, Instrument, and Glider".[3]

Personal life[edit]

Barr met her husband and boss at the time, David Barr, while teaching piloting in 1946.[2] They married the next year and had two children, Molly and Nevada.[5]



  1. ^ Gibson, Karen Bush (2013). Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys. Chicago Review Press. p. 134.
  2. ^ a b c Moore, Gerald (September 15, 1975). "When Western Forests Start to Burn, a Low-Flying Woman Pilot Takes the Perilous Lead". People. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e "2001 Pioneer Hall of Fame". Women in Aviation, International. 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  4. ^ Ghosh, Sreyashi (November 9, 2015). "Remembering women pilots of WWII". Daily Record. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Morgan, Woody (February 6, 2001). "Aviation hall of fame induction next for Barr". Lassen County Times. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  6. ^ Berliner, Don (April 30, 2013). "A Concise History of Air Racing" (PDF). Society of Air Racing Historians. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  7. ^ Gant, Kelli (2016). "Women in Aviation". The Ninety-Nines, Inc. Ninety-Nines. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Couso, Jeremy (April 25, 2013). "Historical Society Readies New Museum Exhibits for Summer". SusanvilleStuff. Retrieved March 11, 2016.