Maureen Dunlop de Popp joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in 1942, becoming one of the few women trained to fly 38 types of aircraft between military factories and airfields in the United Kingdom. Though she was limited to flying in non-combat zones by her gender, her work still necessitated bravery in the face of danger and perseverance in spite of sexism, making her a woman to remember.
Born to British parents and raised in Argentina, Dunlop began flying lessons at 15, expressing an early interest in the career that would make her an iconic figure. She returned to the UK once World War II broke out, hoping to help out the war effort in the footsteps of her father, who had served with the Royal Field Artillery during World War I.
In order for women to join the ATA, they had to undergo a grueling 500 hours of solo flying, as opposed to men who only needed 250 hours to prove themselves. “They had to fly the fighter aircraft with limited training and were often looked down upon by the male RAF pilots,” according to the Daily Mail. “However, not all men saw the female pilots as inferior, as Sir Stafford Cripps arranged for the female members of the ATA to have the same pay as their male colleagues.”
Dunlop loved flying — so much that she flew over 800 hours for the ATA — despite the danger it often entailed. She once had to make an emergency landing after the cockpit canopy flew off her Spitfire after takeoff; another time she made an emergency landing in a field after her engine failed in midair. Undeterred from the risks of flying, she even went on to advocate for the inclusion of women in combat zones, stating that she “thought it was the only fair thing. Why should only men be killed?”.
After the war, she returned to Argentina and worked as a flight instructor, eventually marrying Serban Victor Poppin in 1955 and having a son and two daughters.
Dunlop was officially recognized for her achievements in 2003, when she received the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigator’s Master Air Pilot Award along with three other female ATA pilots. She passed away May 29, 2012, and is survived by her her son and one of her daughters.
(via Daily Mail.)