Independent Press-Telegram from Long Beach, California on July 9, 1961 · Page 66
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Independent Press-Telegram from Long Beach, California · Page 66

Long Beach, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 9, 1961
Page 66
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I 1.2 S Powder Puff Derby Guest in a Long Beach home, Grazia Sartori of Rome, aviation star in her own right in Italy, is a Powder Puff Derby rival of iier hostess. By Florence Rose ""·'M GOING to shoot you in the race so I can win!" the pretly house guest from Rome jokingly threatens her pretty Long Beach hostess. "O.K.," hands back America's top woman racing pilot, "but you have to catch me first." Statistics show that five-time All- Woman Transcontinental Air Race Winner Fran Bera is hard to catch. On the other hand, determined visitor Grazia Snrtori is the feminine flying ace of Italy. That they are both more lovers of flying than rivals is demonstrated by the fact that Fran met Grazia at a dinner for women pilots (the Ninety- Nines), and took her home to 4232 Pepperwood Ave., suitcase and all. Fran, sponsored in this year's "Powder Puff Derby" by Belmont Aviation Corp., was scheduled to solo in a Beechcraft Bonanza, the "Belmont Belle," when the 15th race started at 9 a. m. yesterday from San Diego. Grazia is flying copilot with Theresa Vasqucs of San Diego. FLYING IS ALLOWED during daylight only. Planes stop only at designated airports to refuel or stay overnight, and the finish line in A t l a n t i c City must be crossed before noon July 12. Television shows and banquets await along the way for conteslants who, nevertheless, breakfast at 3 or 4 break start. T.ifesavers serve as "breakfast" when restaurants are not open or time is short, and racers eat their first meal at the end of the day's work. The All-Woman Transcontinental Air Race, started in J947, is flown in connection with the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of licensed women pilots founded in 1929 by Amelia Earhart. There were 99 charter members. The TAR aims to demonstrate the utility, safety, and reliability of light aircraft and the efficiency of women pilots. fn this race there is no neck-and- neck checkered flag ending. Some of the lowest scores cross the finish line first because the winner must average the highest ground speed in relation to the advertised average for his plane. "I'm always surprised when I win," says the five-foot Long Beach wonder who has won more cross-country, races than any other woman pilot. Once she was a pin-up girl for a bomb squadron. "But she always plans to win," explains Gordon Bcra who married Fran after hiring her as instructor in his Michigan flying school. "I always plan to win, but I'm always surprised when I do," squares Mrs. Bera with the life-is-fun eyes. THIS WILL BE the l l t h Derby for Fran, who holds an Airline Transport rating, single and multi-engine land and sea with 10,000 hours in the air. She was a CAA commercial pilot examiner for more than ten years. t llcr own flight school, broken the sound barrier in a jet, flown as executive pilot and test pilot, parachuted, and been trained as an astronaut. Although this is Grazia's first TAR, she wears a bracelet of medals for wins in European races. She flies the ex-Prince and Princess of Italy to visit Lisbon, and often visits her ex-king in Portugal. Is there a difference in a t t i t u d e between the two countries toward women piloting? Grazia admits that she would probably never have flown were her father, a Roman lawyer who died when she was 13, still living. Her mother? "fche feels pain when I am flying because she always thinks 1 might be in danger, but she never tells me this." The Italian avialrix fills in the language gap with graceful rippling motions of her long fingers. Says Grazia, "My mother and I went flying over a l i t t l e village where we had a farm." Her mother, not understanding that flying is u n l i k e driving a car, kept warning, "Don't let go of the wheel! Pay attention to what you are doing!" And when they landed the villagers asked Grazia's mother, "Were you in the plane, too? Then two are crazy!" FRAN CREATED a stir herself when she started flying at 16. She worked at a cannery, played hooky from school, and hitchhiked rides to the Grand Rapids airport for lessons before she flew proudly into the family farm as a complete surprise to her father. But her parents finally drew the line at parachuting, from which phase of flying she retired at 21, after jumping from the age of IV. The closest Fran came to fear in chuttng was worry over landing in the wrong field. While Fran's husband refuses to make a general comparison between male and female pilots, he hurries to commit himself concerning his wife. "She is without a doubt the finest pilot I've ever flown with." It is he who points to a dazzling denful of his wife's trophies, and she who stands modestly in the background. "I work at it," reports Mrs. Bera, meaning that besides instructing, she spends about a fourth of her time flying charters. In Italy, Grazia explains, women can't possibly make money at flying. "It is d i f f i c u l t for men and impossible for women. It's only a hobby in Italy." Signorina Sarlori attributes this partly to the three or four months of fog, and partly to the fact that Italians have no weekends in the American sense. All Saturdays are work days. GUAZIA POINTS out that in her country, no one would take lessons from a woman, whereas most of Fran's flying pupils are men. Asked about hair-greying experiences, Grazia answers, "You know you must do something, so you are calm." Fran agrees, "You're not scared at (he time," but she won't forget a race when her landing gear wouldn't give for a couple of hours and she was virtually out of fuel. Grazia would like to forget watching two private planes carrying her friends collide in midair while she was flying. "I looked down and saw--" she shudders. Although Grazia admires the industry of American women, she t h i n k s I t a l i a n s "have something t h a t you lose. It's not just--being happier." She (Continued on Page 31) Fran Bera Miss Sartori's hostess, n a five-time winner of the race i9..«M^?? t *rv^

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