99s Judge Newman

Overlooking the Key Bridge and Potomac River from the Watergate this past Sunday in the lovely home of Vice-Chair Barb Rohde,

we were given the privilege of spending an afternoon with Pilot and Judge Pauline (“Polly”) Newman.  As so often when a group of 99s get-together, a wonderful atmosphere of unity emerges, that transcends space and time and lasts forever in our memories.  In this case, through the recollection of Polly’s aviation experiences, we became linked to 99s founding mother Ruth Nichols, to aviation in the 1940s and 1950s and to the incredible life story of yet another strong, independent, intelligent woman in aviation. Polly impressed us all with her soft-spoken, articulate description of her education and with her flying accomplishments.  Dr. and Judge Newman is remarkably well-educated with degrees from Vassar and Columbia, a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Yale, and a Law degree (L.L.B) from New York University. Of all the things her family told her she could not do—they never said she could not fly. And fly she did. She was swept up into the exciting time in aviation after WWII, and had the tremendous opportunity to be trained by the “hot” <err–savvy> veteran pilots looking for work in New Haven, Conn. Her primary training was by the best, and she received Airman’s certificate #3708. 

She worked for a few years as a Scientist at American Cyanamid Co, and some of her best adventures were her Sunday flights in a Piper cub, where she learned to do aerobatics as well as those that could be done in a Stearman.  Her most memorable aviation adventure during this time was a trip from the tip of Cape Cod across Buzzards Bay with passengers, where she encountered such incredibly strong head wind that she seemed suspended in space. In her head, she could hear the voices of her past instructors [“keep your eye on land/ground for perspective” and “know where the nearest airport is”].  She descended to ~6 ft off the water to get forward speed and prepared for an emergency landing into Newport. She was aware by then of the strong, wicked winds as she lined up for a wheel landing, but was perplexed and detoured by all the men on the field. Not knowing why they were there, and not wanting to hit them, she maneuvered for an adjacent grass field—only to have them run over to it. As she landed, she realized that they were there to hold the plane down, and that she had landed a J3 in winds gusting to 60 kt!

Polly flew with Ruth Nichols in the CAP, and both shared the ambition of becoming astronauts in the 1950s. (precocious, that is, as this would not become a reality for any American woman until 1983 and Sally Ride).  She offered a kind and thoughtful perspective on the life, accomplishments and tragedies of Ms Nichols.  Ruth Nichols participated in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby and was one of the original founding 99s, always wanted to push further and break records. She set numerous speed records including a transcontinental speed record (in 1930—beating Lindberg) and was one of the first women to fly jets.  In her later years, after 6-major accidents, she turned her efforts to humanitarian work with the CAP.

We all sat spellbound this past Sunday and were indeed fortunate to have Judge Newman as our guide.  For those of us who knew Fay Gilles Wells, or Dr. Linda Thompson (MD) who treated Bobbi Trout,  Polly gave us a grasp of the human link and continuity to our sisters-past in aviation that left us all with a new contextual reality of greater depth and appreciation for all that we share here and now.

Click here for a slide presentation of the event.

 Attendees: Barb Rohde, Pauline Newman, Laura Takacs, Linda Litwin, Debi Katzen Dreyfuss, Joyce Breiner Yaney, Roseanne DeLuca, Julia Reiners, Pauline Parent, Pat Manos Kraemer

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2 Comments to 99s Judge Newman

  1. by pat

    On March 1, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Many thanks to Husband Harry for his help in putting this together.

  2. by Laura

    On March 1, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Wow, this is so cool! Thank you Pat and Harry.

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