ORLANDO, Fla. – While at this years National conference, Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Whitney Reuschel was graced with the opportunity to speak with Mary Feik. After overhauling her first automobile engine at 13, Mary Feik turned to aircraft engines and military aircraft at 18, eventually teaching aircraft maintenance to crew chiefs and mechanics for the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942.
She is credited with becoming the first woman engineer in research and development in the Air Technical Service Command’s Engineering Division. In addition to logging more than 5,000 hours as a B-29 flight engineer, engineering observer and pilot in fighter, attack, bomber, cargo and training aircraft, she also designed high-performance and jet fighter pilot transition trainers as well as aircraft maintenance trainers. Not just noted as a pilot but also a writer, Feik authored pilot training manuals and technical engineering reports that were distributed throughout the armed forces.
She’s accomplished so much but here’s what she says about her proudest moment: “My ultimate honor is the Civil Air Patrol cadet achievement created in my name.” The Mary Feik Achievement is the third achievement in the Civil Air Patrol, this award is the cadet Senior Airmen achievement and also the final achievement before becoming an NCO.
During lunch on August the 30th, C/CMSgt Reuschel was able to have several wonderful conversations with her. These are some of the things that C/CMSgt Reuschel had to say after the conference, “Last week at the Civil Air Patrol National Conference of 2015, I had the opportunity to meet a CAP legend. During Cadet Day of the conference, I was honored to sit next to Mary Feik at lunch. Mary Feik is the last living namesake of a Civil Air Patrol Promotion, specifically, the Senior Airman promotion. She is the first woman to achieve the Master Mechanic award, and she flew a P-51 Mustang when she was 18. Despite her incredible achievements, I found her to be one of the most fascinating and personable people I have ever met. She was very talkative, and had stories like I had never heard before. She calmly spoke of the time she had cartwheeled a P-51 Mustang, or the time she had flown an aircraft backwards to demonstrate the Bernoulli principle. She had the full attention of myself, and the other cadets at the table. She was also very interested in my own CAP career, and was full of questions about my progression through the program. She is a living legend and an aerospace pioneer, and I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent with her.”