Dorothy Rungeling – Canada’s First Woman to Solo a Helicopter
Our 2010 stamp honours Dorothy Rungeling and was released on May 12, Dorothy’s 99th birthday. Designed by Ninety-Nines member Suzanne Wiltshire, the stamp features Dorothy’s portrait and a Bell 47G-2 helicopter.
Dorothy joined the first Canadian Section of the Ninety-Nines in
the early 1950s and soon served as Governor. She had been instrumental in air-marking, an important Ninety-Nines project. Airport names were painted on runways or roofs of nearby buildings. These markings were helpful to pilots for years. Soon after the Welland airport had been thus identified, a pilot told Dorothy it had saved his life during a snowstorm – music to her ears.
Born in 1911, Dorothy rode a motorcycle, trained horses and judged horse shows, unusual for young women in those times.
She was nervous during her first flight, but decided to overcome her fear. She intended to just continue lessons until she soloed, but by then the flying bug had settled in. She completed her Private Licence in 1949.
Seeing that she was serious about flying, her husband Charlie bought her a new Luscombe – for $2500! To build time for her Commercial Licence, Dorothy flew to Cuba with other pilots. Her navigation ability improved significantly when she became separated from the group.
Dorothy instructed part-time, but her real passion was air racing. Seven times she competed in the Women’s International Air Race, also called the “Angel Derby”, an air race of approximately 850 – 900 nautical miles between the USA and another country – Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean – often placing within the top ten. She also competed in the All-Woman Transcontinental Air Race – AWTAR, sometimes named the “Powder Puff Derby”, about a 2400 nautical mile course across the USA. Dorothy’s copilots included other well known Canadian pilots, Lorna deBlicquy and Felicity McKendry. Her favourite team outfit consisted of matching dresses and aprons with the caption “To hell with housework”. In Canada Dorothy competed against men for the Governor General’s Cup, a precision flying course, winning the cup in 1953 and 1955.
Through her weekly aviation column in the Welland Tribune, and articles in Canadian aviation publications, she stimulated interest in aviation. Twice she won awards for articles. A helicopter distributer offered her a few lessons if she wrote about the experience from a fixed wing pilot’s point of view. Of course Dorothy welcomed this opportunity for lessons on the Bell 47G-2 helicopter, until she soloed. With no prospect of a job, she didn’t continue lessons.
Dorothy continued to write after she gave up flying. After turning 90, she wrote and self-published four books, including The Flying Housewife. During her nineties she continued to instruct, sharing her computer skills and knowledge with other seniors.
Dorothy has received many honours but the greatest was in 2015 when her home base, Welland airport was renamed the Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport, the first one in Canada to be named for a woman. Dorothy passed away in 2018 at the age of 106.
by Marilyn Dickson, The Stamp Committee of the East Canada Section of the Ninety-Nines women pilots organization
selects one Canadian female pilot each year, to honour with a commemorative stamp.
STAMP ORDER FORM
The East Canada Section, Ninety-Nines are thrilled to celebrate these remarkable women with the custom postal stamps.
All the stamps are available in four formats. With each order purchasers receive a brief bio which we encourage them to copy and send with correspondence when using the stamps.
Domestic Postage sheets of 50 can be used as regular letter postage, even after future rate increases – $85.
A booklet of 12 stamps is useful for those desiring a smaller quantity for regular letter postage – $24.
The Keepsake sheet features 25 regular sized stamps plus one large stamp – $45.
A limited number of First Day Covers are available for $7 each. They will be of particular interest to the stamp collectors among friends and family.
Sheets of 50 stamps, Keepsake sheets and First Day Covers may be ordered directly on the stamp order page with credit card or by printing the order form and mailing it, along with a cheque, to Bev Fraser, Box 56060, Fiesta Outlet, Stoney Creek, ON, L8G 5C9. An additional $4 cost will be required for mail orders.
Please note that these stamps are not available at postal outlets.