Fran Bera

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Fran Bera - Top woman racing pilot still flying high as...
Top woman racing pilot still flying high as aircraft salesperson at L.B. airport By Helen Guthrie Smith StattWrittr She's been called Long Beach's first lady of flight, America's top woman racing pilot and ia living legend in the flying world. ~ She's Fran Bera, winner r of seven Powder Puff Derbies. She won the first year she eritered that famous cross-country women's air race and made five second-place finishes. The most recent one was in the 3«th and tinai derby last summer. She set an altitude record in 1966 when she took a twin-engine'Piper Aztec to 40,194 feet, -higher than any plane in its class had ever ·flown. She also tjroke the sound barrier in a jet. She went through astronaut training and parachute jumping and she acquired almost every flying rating from airline transport pilot to ratings for sea planes, hot air balloons and helicopters. She has taught thousands of students to fly, 'ran her own flight school and was designated by the Federal Aviation Administration as an official FAA flight examiner with the power to -grant pilot licenses. She's Gown charters, nas been an executive pilot and a test pilot. The 5-foot-tall flier carried with her a .specially made, 6-irich-thick pillow to put be- Jiind her so her feet would reach the pedals. Today Fran Bera still is doing the only thing she ever wanted to do -- fly, and fly often. She's selling airplanes for Beechcraft West Aircraft Sales at Long Beach Airport and t a k i n g prospective buyers and others up several times a week on business, on newspaper interviews and for quick hops to ski slopes. The pillow, given. a new cover several limes over the years, goes along. Another in a Saturday Update series about persons and events that once made the news and what has happened since. "Next month it will be 37 years since I started flying, and I've never been away from it," she said in a recent interview, recalling that she started taking flight lessons in Grand Rapids, Mich., when she was 16, paying for the instruction with her lunch money and salary, from odd jobs. She estimated that she has about 20,000 hours in the air, but added, "I don't keep track." Mrs, Bera, who's won more cross-country air races than any other woman in history, still is setting records. The records now, however, are sales records. A trophy awarded the seller of a million dollars worth of airplanes--she closed the deals for (hem on the same day--decorates her desk. Trans-America races no longer hold the lure they once did. "I'm tired of it. Like anything else you do a lot, it grows old," she said. "I don't really try as hard anymore." But once the race starts, she admitted, "I fry to win." A lot of that determination to win races is now going into learning to ski, an activity she says she loves, and into selling planes. She said she sells eight to 10 new Beechcrafts a year. She said she has "no big plans" but that she is considering entering a round-the-world air race, tentatively set for 1980. Such a race has been her dream for a long time. Although flying irauuiOiiduy JidS uOen considered a man's field, Mrs. Bera said she never has been bothered by sex discrimination. Only once, she said, did a man refuse to take flying lessons from her because she was a woman. He later changed his mind and asked for her help. "I'm not a women's libber," she said. "I've always been liberated." FRAN BERA, AMERICA'S TOP WOMAN RACING -Staff Photo by TOM SHAW

Clipped from
  1. Independent Press-Telegram,
  2. 19 Nov 1977, Sat,
  3. Page 19

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