Grace Pugh, Vermont's First Aviatrix

Grace Hall Pugh, a native of Ferrisburg, Vermont, and Vermont's "First Lady of Aviation," initially became involved with the Burlington Airport in 1931. Grace came from a family deeply rooted in flying. In fact, Arthur Ashley, her stepfather, had just become the Burlington Airport's new manager.

Grace took out a student permit to fly in 1932 and on March 13, 1938, she became the first licensed woman pilot in Vermont. "When I got my first license," she said, "there wasn't an Aeronautics Board. I got my license from the Motor Vehicle Department."

Grace later explained, "We had to take at least ten hours of dual training and accumulate fifty hours of solo time. And there weren't the means of aerial navigation we have now. We had maps but no radios. We used the railroads and we called them our 'iron compass.' We had to stick our nose out of the cockpit to watch."

In 1934, Grace Hall became Mrs. Harold Pugh. Harold had just succeeded Arthur Ashley as the Burlington Airport's manager. Grace first met Harold around 1932. Inspired by the achievements of Charles Lindbergh, Harold had first

Grace Pugh Photo

Photo Courtest of Grace Pugh

Grace Pugh, the first woman in Vermont to obtain a pilot's license. Her historical event took place on May 13, 1938. She had been a student since 1932, was the wife of aviator Harold Pugh, and had her own plane named "The Mouse."

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learned to fly in Plattsburg and was running an automobile paint shop there. One day, Harold flew across the lake to Burlington to receive his flight physical. By the time he had concluded his business, it was getting dark. These were the days when neither airports nor airplanes were lit, so Harold went home with Arthur Ashley to Ferrisburg to stay the night. This happened on a weekend when Grace was home from her teaching job. Thus, the chance event sparked the beginning of a relationship that culminated in marriage.

Grace summed up this early period of aviation history very well. She said, "The pilots were as free as birds. They landed where they dared; they took off where they could; and they flew as high or low as they pleased. There were only a few rules. Only the pilots knew what they were and they didn't always abide by them. Pilots flew by common sense and by the seats of their pants. They had few instruments, no radio, no tail wheel or brakes, and they often used automobile gas. They had to be good to survive. Recognized by their helmets and goggles, they were the daredevils of the sky and often the subjects of hero worship."

Grace Pugh was one of these daredevils. Well after surviving the risk and excitement of her youth, she died in 1996.