Ann Baumgartner Carl
WASP, Class 43-W-5
“Last time we spoke,” Wilber Wright said one day, “I asked what sort of a girl would want to fly experimental military aircraft. You didn’t say, “he laughed.”
“Well, I guess just a sort who, instead of religiously practicing the piano, had to go out and see what was happening in the woods that day, or down at the brook, or high on the hill. And then one day she saw an airplane fly by.”
– Ann Baumgartner Carl, “A WASP AMONG EAGLES”, page 83
Ann G. Baumgartner Carl (August 27, 1918 – March 20, 2008) was an American aviator who became the first American woman to fly a United States Army Air Forces jet aircraft when she flew the Bell YP-59A jet fighter at Wright Field as a test pilot during World War II. She was assigned to Wright Field as an assistant operations officer in the fighter test section as member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots program.
Originally, Baumgartner reported to Houston, Texas in January 1943 to be in the Women Airforce Service Pilots Class of 43-W-3, but she became ill with the measles and thus graduated on July 3, 1943, with the fifth WASP class (43-W-5). After completing the training, Baumgartner was assigned to Camp Davis in North Carolina as a tow target pilot. Camp Davis was an artillery training base and the WASPs flew as visual and radar tracking targets. Baumgartner flew the Douglas A-24, Curtiss A-25, Lockheed B-34, Cessna UC-78 and Stinson L-5 while at Camp Davis.
In February 1944, Baumgartner transferred to Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio for a temporary assignment to test aeromedical equipment being designed for the WASP program. While in Ohio, Baumgartner applied for an assignment in the Flight Test Division at Wright Field as an assistant operations officer. In March 1944 she was transferred to Wright Field as an assistant operations officer in the fighter test section.
Originally her duties were primarily clerical but over time she was permitted to fly as a test pilot. Additionally, Baumgartner was assigned to transport staff officers to other Army bases, and delivered planes as required. When Baumgartner worked in the bomber flight test division for a short time, she gained pilot and copilot experience in the B-17, B-24, B-29, the British de Havilland Mosquito, and the German Junkers Ju 88. After her reassignment back to the fighter test division, she flew America’s first jet aircraft, the Bell YP-59A on October 14, 1944, becoming the first American woman to fly a jet. Her assignment as a fighter flight test pilot at Wright Field ended in December 1944 when the WASP program was disbanded.