Flying was a passion of Nancy Batson Crews.
She learned to fly through the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the
University of Alabama, earned her Private Pilot's License on June 15, 1940, her
Commercial License (winter) and her instructor's rating (spring) 1942. The fall
of 1942, she was one of twenty-eight professional women pilots accepted for the
experimental Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), Ferrying Division Air
Transport Command, U.S. Army Air Forces. She served October 1942-December
The first Alabama woman to fly military aircraft,
Nancy was an accomplished pilot who ferried fighters from the factory to the
docks. Once, when she was unable to lower the nose gear on a twin engine P-38,
she exhibited uncommon nerve and skill getting the gear unstuck while in
mid-air, then coolly landing without further incident.
A natural leader, she served as president of her
residence hall during her junior year and president of the Women's Student
Government Association her senior year at the University of Alabama. She
graduated in 1941. When the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) - as the WAFS
became known after August 1943 - formed a post-war organization in the early
1970's, Nancy was elected their first president. She served 1972-1975, drafting
the by-laws by which the organization is run today.
Nancy was one of four children born to Stephen
Radford and Ruth Philips Batson of Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents supported
her desire to fly. After WWII, Nancy married Paul Crews, her college
sweetheart. His career took them to California where they raised two sons and a
daughter. One son is now an airline pilot. Nancy didn't fly between 1949 and
1959, but when the children were school age, she resumed flying. She owned a
succession of airplanes, flight instructed, competed in three Powder Puff
Derbies, and became a glider pilot and instructor in California after age
After Paul's death in 1978, Nancy served one term
as mayor of California City, then moved back to Alabama. She established a
successful real estate development business by building houses on land she
inherited from her father. She served one term as a St. Clair County Airport
commissioner. In 1989, she was the first woman inducted into the Alabama
Aviation Hall of Fame. In 1997, a plaque in her name was placed in aviation's
prestigious Forest of Friendship, near Amelia Earhart's Atchison, Kansas
birthplace. Her WAFS uniform, first logbook, and Mooney Mite airplane are
enshrined at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Alabama.
Multitalented and adaptable in her approach to life, Nancy is a role model for
today's young women whether they fly or not.
In September 1999, at age seventy-nine, Nancy had
the opportunity to fly co-pilot in a corporate King Air twin-engine turbo jet.
She passed all her necessary ratings and flew several trips. Her last flight
was not long after her eightieth birthday, shortly before she was grounded by a
terminal illness that claimed her life.