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Women Pilots Get Ready for Air Show

They’re a group of daredevils, performing their ballets in the sky.

On weekends, members of Ventura County’s 99s, a club of women pilots, get together to exchange their war stories and dare each other to try new things.

Recently, one of the members, Jenny Parks, set a world record for flying nearly 24 hours without landing in her Cessna.

Joann Osterud won notoriety last month when she flew her biplane upside down for 4 hours, 38 minutes and 10 seconds.

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“Flying is a terrifically rewarding thing to be involved in,” said Pat Thomas, president of the local chapter of the 99s. “There are so many things you can do: aerobatics, commercial flying . . . even combat flying now.”

Among the 36 members of the group are several commercial pilots, a naval commanding officer, several flight instructors and a dozen weekend flight enthusiasts.

Kitty Alegre, who takes her 1946 Piper Cub aloft every weekend, said she feels most comfortable when she is high above the Earth.

“I always wanted to fly ever since I was a kid,” Alegre said. “This plane is my toy.”

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Thomas said any woman who has a pilot’s license can join the 99s, which will participate Saturday in the Oxnard Air Show.

She said there are about 7,000 members worldwide in the group, which was started by 99 pioneer women pilots, including Amelia Earhart, in 1929.

In addition to exchanging war stories, members of the group give seminars on pilot safety and scholarships to women interested in flying.

“We provide our support to any woman who wants to achieve greater heights,” Thomas said. “We want to show young women, especially, that they might want to consider aviation as a career or as something fun to do.”

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