early group of 99s

The SW Section of the 99s

When The Ninety-Nines was founded in 1929, California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona were designated as the Southwest Section. That first year, there were no chapters, only charter members. California had 12 charter members and Nevada had just one.

The first Southwest Section governor was Gladys O’Donnell.  Clema Granger served as treasurer. In 1932, Margaret Cooper (Perry, Manser) was instrumental in forming the first two chapters in the Section, Bay Cities and Los Angeles.

Over the years, more and more chapters were chartered. The formation of the Hawaii (Aloha) Chapter on June 4, 1968 added the state of Hawaii to the Section.

Today, the Southwest Section boasts over 1,600 members among 43 chapters in California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. About 25% of the all Ninety-Nines are members of our Section.

Who Are The Ninety-Nines?

The Ninety-Nines, Inc. is the world’s largest and oldest organization of licensed women pilots. With chapters in 35 countries, the majority of our 6,500-plus members live in the United States. Although there are other female pilot organizations in various states and nations, virtually all women of achievement in aviation have been or are members of The Ninety-Nines.

Originally called the 99s Club, our organization began on November 2, 1929, at Curtiss Field, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York when 117 American female pilots were invited to assemble for mutual support and the advancement of aviation. In 1931, Amelia Earhart was elected as first president and the group was renamed “The Ninety-Nines” in recognition of the original 99 charter members.

Today Ninety-Nines are professional pilots for airlines, industry, and government; we are pilots who teach and pilots who fly for pleasure; we are pilots who are technicians and mechanics. But first and foremost, we are women who love to fly!

Amelia Earhart


First Meeting of The Ninety-Nines, November 2, 1929

Leading the Way

Over the years, many members of the Southwest Section have been proud and honored to serve on the The Ninety-Nines, Inc. Board of Directors.

International Board Presidents:

Margaret Cooper Mansesr, Betty Gillies, Ethel Sheehy, Geraldine Mickelsen, Alice Roberts, Joyce Wells, Lois Erikson, Thon Griffith, Marie Christensen, Barbara Sestito, Pat Prentiss, and Martha Phillips.

International Board Vice Presidents:

Gladys O’Donnell, Clema Granger, Betty Gillies, Anna Brenner, Bessie Owne, Ethel Sheehy, Alice Roberts, Thon Griffith, and Pat Prentiss.

International Conference Host

The Southwest Section has hosted an annual The Ninety-Nines, Inc. International Conference several times, first in 1933 for the fourth conference, and again for the 48th conference in San Francisco. The 1986 and 2010 International Conferences were hosted in Hawaii and the 2000 conference in San Diego.

All section chapters pitch in to create unforgettable events each time.

Woman Pilot with Headset

Air Races & Air Racing

The All Woman Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR aka the “Powder Puff Derby”) 1947-1977, was started by Mardo Crane. Members from the SWS Section were always on the Board of Directors; California Chapters were in the majority of the Start Hostesses; entrants and winners from the Section were legion.

When the Air Race Classic (ARC) replaced the AWTAR in 1977, it was Southwest Section members who established it. Four Section members being elected Directors and other members were on the necessary committees. Santa Rosa Chapter held the first race start on July 16th, 1977. At the end of the race in Toledo, SWS members Joyce Wells (solo) took 2nd place, Luana Davis (solo), 3rd , Norma Futtermand and Virginia Showers, 4th, Jean Rose and Janice Free, 8th.

Racing is very strong among 99s who enjoy the excitement, camaraderie and proficiency of competing in air races. Some favorites in the Southwest Section have been the Palms to Pines, Havasu 600, Great Pumpkin Classis, Great Southern Air Race, Hayward Air Rally. There are many others across the country enjoyed by 99s and other pilots alike. For the Air Race Classic (this is the current version of the Powder Puff Derby), 99s chapters host the start and terminus as well as checkpoints along the route. They provide transportation, fuel services, food and water and often great gifts since this race occurs over 4 days and crosses the country.