We are sorry to report that Mary Gaffaney, one of the world’s greatest aerobatic pilots, passed away in December at the age of 91.
Mary Gaffaney followed in the footsteps of Betty Skelton, Caro Bayley, and Joyce Case in bringing attention to the Pitts Special. Mary was very "special" in the fact that she was the first American woman to win the Women's World Aerobatic Champion title after the WAC was first organized in 1960.
Mary Gaffaney's Pitts in the hangar at Hullavington, United Kingdome during the 1970 WAC.
Mary first competed at the 1968 WAC in Magdeburg, East Germany and came in 10th among the women that year. Working her way up, she was 3rd place in the women's division at WAC 1970 in Hullavington, United Kingdom and won the Gold Medal that year in Program 1. WAC 1972 in France was her high point. She won the title of Women's World Aerobatic Champion and also Gold Medals in Programs 1 and 2. With Charlie Hillard winning the Overall World Aerobatic Champion title that year in his Pitts N442X, taking home the Aresti Cup, and the US Team winning the Nesterov Trophy, it was a banner year for the USA.
Mary flew N6W in France in 1972 where she won the title of Women's World Aerobatic Champion. Her aircraft is pictured next to Charlie Hillard's Pitts N442X which now rests in the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh.
Mary retired from world competition after 1972. During that time, she flew two Pitts Specials: N5J and N6W. In 1991, she was inducted into IAC’s Aerobatics Hall of Fame.
Mary operated Kendall Flying School and Kendall Gliderport for many years and was an accomplished helicopter pilot and instructor as well. Many aerobatic pilots got their start with instruction from Mary.
Mary Gaffaney -- one of the world's greatest aerobatic pilots.
Photos courtesy of Francois Bougie