Hendersonville resident Dorothy “Dot” Hoover was just ten years old when her hero, Charles A. Lindbergh, made his historic 1929 trans-Atlantic flight.
“He was my inspiration,” she says. “I grew up thinking of him as The Lone Eagle.”
So it was only natural that a 25-year-old Dot, upon reading a call for women pilots, would sign up to serve in World War II. She wrote a letter to Jackie Cochran, the famous female aviator who was organizing the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), offering her services. Acceptance came quickly and she joined 1,025 other women who graduated from the program.
With barely the requisite 200 hours of flying time, Dot was sent to Sweetwater, Texas to train and to eventually become an instructor herself. One of her jobs was towing glider pilots as they trained for the Normandy Invasion. The gliders had a 100-foot wingspan, she remembers, and held 15 men and one jeep. Landing the gliders was a nightmare even under controlled training circumstances. Landing in a combat zone was extremely dangerous. “I don’t know if any of them survived the invasion,” she says.
Despite the excitement and danger, Dot says she was really only truly scared one time. It was during her first training flight in aerial acrobatics. Once up in the air above the clouds, she made a deal with God, she says. “‘I’ll tell you what, God, I’ll turn this plane upside down if you’ll turn it back up. ‘ Well, he did, and I was never scared after that. I had a great time.”