Aviation Pioneers

Wally Funk, An American Aviator And Goodwill Ambassador

In this article we are going to discuss the life and career of Wally Funk, an American aviator and aviation safety advocate. She is an aviator with a great education and a successful career with over 19,000 hours of flight experience.

Early Life Of Wally Funk

Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk was born on the 1st of February 1939 in Las Vegas, New Mexico to parents who owned a variety store. She spend her childhood in Taos, New Mexico and as a little kid she was awestruck by planes and aircraft.

wally funk
source: sciencefocus.com

Her parents took her to an airfield when she was just one years old and she had the opportunity to see a Douglas DC-3 up-close. When she was 7 years old, she was building model planes from wood and she got her first flying lesson two years later, when she was 9 years old.

However, opportunities were not always easy to get for a girl during that time. When Funk was going to high school she wanted to take classes about her passions. But due to her gender, she could only take classes like home economics. Because of this, she had to leave high school early and went to a private women’s college in Columbia, Missouri, Stephens College.

Wally Funk’s Education and Aviation Career

After going to Stephen College, Funk entered Oklahoma State University and during all here university years, she got actively involved in aviation and joined clubs and programs about flight. During her education, she learned a lot about aviation in these programs.

She became an officer for the “Flying Aggies” program and performed in International Collegiate Air Meets. She also received many trophies including the ones for the “Outstanding Female Pilot” and “Flying Aggie Top Pilot”.

wally funk

Wally Funk started her career as a professional aviator at 20 years old and became first female flight instructor at a US military base. After earning her Airline Transport Rating in 1968, she applied for jobs in commercial airlines but got rejected due to her gender.

As a response to that, Funk got her flight inspector rating from the Federal Aviation Administration and started working as a field examiner for the FAA. Following that she worked as an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board from 1974 to 1985.

At the same time, she performed in many air races during her career.

Her Space Journey

Before her successful career as an aviator, Funk volunteered for a program called the “Women in Space” program at the age of 21. Like other volunteers, she was put through lots of tests and successfully passed them. Unfortunately, the program was cancelled.

When NASA started accepting women, Funk applied several times but due to not having an engineering degree or a background as a test pilot, she was rejected. Sadly, her efforts didn’t seem to produce any results in the space field.

On the 1st of July, 2021, famous American billionaire Jeff Bezos’ aerospace manufacturing company Blue Origin stated that Funk will be on the first flight of New Shepard, their suborbital launch vehicle.


Anon. (n.d.), Wally Funk, Wikipedia, Retrieved July 4 2021

< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wally_Funk >