Wally Funk

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Wally Funk
Seven Members of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees in 1995 - GPN-2002-000196-crop.jpg
Wally Funk in 1995
Born (1939-02-01) February 1, 1939 (age 79)
Las Vegas, New Mexico
Known for One of the Mercury 13

Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk (born February 1, 1939) is an American aviator and Goodwill Ambassador. Funk was one of the Mercury 13. Funk was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first Federal Aviation Agency inspector.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Funk was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1939[2] and grew up in Taos, New Mexico. Her parents owned a variety store. The family had a collection of artwork from artists at the Taos art colony. The artists would trade artwork to pay off their debt at the store. When Funk was five years old, she jumped off the roof of a barn in a Superman costume. She thought the costume would make her fly instead of falling into a haystack.[1] She did her first solo flight at age 16 and enrolled in the aviation program at Stephens College, which she completed first in her class in 1958.[3] Next, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education at Oklahoma State University, along with additional aviation instrumentation and instruction ratings.[4] At 20 years old, Funk became a professional aviator.[5]

Mercury 13[edit]

Funk always wanted to be an astronaut.[5] Funk volunteered to be a part of the Women in Space Program in 1961, becoming one of the Mercury 13.[5][6] Funk, like the other participants in the program, was put through rigorous physical and mental testing. In one test, volunteers were placed in sensory deprivation tanks. Funk was in the tank, without hallucinating, for 10 hours and 35 minutes, a record. She passed her tests and was qualified to go into space. She scored higher than John Glenn did in his testing and was the third best in the Mercury 13 program. Despite this, the program was canceled before the women were to undergo their last test.[5]

After Mercury 13[edit]

After the Mercury 13 program was canceled, Funk became a Goodwill Ambassador, flying over 80,000 miles throughout the world. She earned the rating of flight instructor in the United States, from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).[5] At Fort Sill, Oklahoma, she became the first non-military flight instructor.[1] She was the first woman to finish the FAA General Aviation Operations Inspector Academy. She finished it in 1971. She became an Air Safety Investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, in 1974. She was the first woman to be given the title.[5] In 1995, Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot a space shuttle into space; Funk was too old to qualify to become a space shuttle pilot by the time Collins became one.[1]


She has over 19,000 flight hours.[1] She has taught over 3,000 students how to fly.[1][5] Funk has continued to dream of going to space. In 2012, she put money down to be one of the first people to fly into space via Virgin Galactic. The money for the flight came from Funk's own book and film royalties and family money. She learned how to fly a Black Hawk helicopter in 2012. She lives in Roanoke, Texas.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stolley, Richard B. (18 April 2012). "Woman in Space: The Long-Delayed Flight of Wally Funk". U.S. Time. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Hackel, Karee. "Female aviation pioneer to share her fervor for flight at Stephens College". Columbia Missourian. Retrieved 2016-04-21. 
  4. ^ Inc., The Ninety-Nines,. "Advancing Women Pilots | Women Pilots Today | Wally Funk (The..." The Ninety-Nines, Inc. Retrieved 2016-04-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Wally Funk". Women Aviators. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Butler, Carol L. "Wally Funk Oral History Interview". C-SPAN. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 

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