Roger that, Grandma

This is a re-post of an original Bug Chicks post on Science Friday.

Kristie Grandma first air traffic controller bug chicks.jpg

Last week, while we were teaching on the east coast, we decided to visit Kristie’s 97-year old grandmother. Kristie hadn’t seen her in about three years and wanted to interview her about her life and family history. During the filmed conversation, Kristie realized that we should write about her grandma for our final post during Women’s History Month.

As one of the first female air traffic controllers (a STEM career), she definitely made history on July 28, 1945 when a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City. She was the traffic controller who told the pilot not to approach Manhattan, as the weather in the area was very bad. Although she instructed him to land rather than press through to his destination in Newark, NJ, he didn't heed her warnings. Because of the thick fog, he didn't see the building until it was too late and flew his plane into the 79th floor. As a result, a law was passed shortly thereafter that pilots needed to heed the word of air traffic controllers.

Photo courtesy of Hildegard Oberhofer

Photo courtesy of Hildegard Oberhofer

In 1945, Kristie’s grandmother was a woman in a man’s world. She studied meteorology, technology, and geometry, often performing calculations in her head to help pilots land safely when planes were stacked on top of each other in three dimensional space. While her husband was fighting in World War II, she was breaking barriers here in the U.S.

Listening to Grandma “Obie” tell Kristie the story was inspiring, and we’re so grateful for the time we spent with her. She had some sage words about how people didn't listen to women in those days. Watch the video to hear this amazing woman tell a bit of her history.