By Pat Grant
Nancy Stratford moved to La Costa Glen from San Diego in 2008. Born Nancy Miller on June 12, l9l9, Nancy is celebrating her 100th birthday this year. She began flying at Oakland, CA in 1939. Applying to the Army Air Corps as a pilot, Nancy learned women were not allowed to fly.
Jacqueline Cochran, then foremost woman aviator, recruited Nancy to fly for the British Air Transport Auxiliary. Under siege, Britain was willing to accept foreign women. After passing flight testing in Montreal, Nancy was one of 24 qualified American women who went to England to fly.
ATA pilots needed 50 hours to fly at the time; Nancy had 450. The job was to fly to British bases, often under attack, all types of aircraft from trainers to 4-engine bombers, with no crew, no instruments, no ground control.
Of the 1300 pilots in the ATA, 150 were women who had the confidence and ability to fly anything, even in the “atrocious” English weather. Fog might make landing difficult, but occasionally Nancy flew for the ATA from 1942-1945. Her autobiography, an account of those years, Contact! Britain, features some of the 50 types of planes she flew, from Spitfires (her favorite) to Wellington bombers. She also mentions funny mishaps, mostly with our common English language.
After the war, unable to get a job as a pilot in the U.S., Nancy started a helicopter service in Alaska with her first husband, Arlo Livingston. In 1978 she retired from flying, her hearing damaged by engine noise, after 8500 hours in 105 types of aircraft. In 1991 she moved to San Diego with second husband, Milton Stratford.
Honored by George VI of England, Nancy Miller Livingston Stratford’s life exhibits perseverance, pioneering achievement in flight, courage under fire, and lots of fun!