Close-Up : Sky Queen
Barbara London was 19 years old in 1939, a sophomore majoring in home economics at the University of Washington, when she saw a sign saying the military would teach women how to fly.
That beats home economics, she thought to herself. So she signed up and was soon an instructor in the Civilian Pilot Training program. By the time the United States entered World War II, she was the head of the Long Beach unit of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, which delivered military aircraft to airfields all over the country.
After the war, London parlayed her aviation expertise into a way of life. With a friend, Barney Frazier, she started Barney Frazier Aircraft Sales, a small Long Beach-based aircraft brokerage. She married a pilot and raised two daughters, both of whom have done a bit of aviation pioneering themselves. Her oldest child, Terry Rinehart, was one of the first women to fly for an airline (she’s now a first officer for Delta), and Kristy London Ardizzone, the youngest, is vice president of her mom’s company.
With two pilots for parents, “It was all aviation,” Ardizzone says. “Every breakfast, every dinner was aviation oriented.” Unlike her sister, who learned to fly at an early age, Ardizzone preferred horses to airplanes. Though she still raises and shows quarter horses, genetics won out: She learned to fly 10 years ago, when she came into the business after Frazier died. Now she loves it: “I’m addicted.” She’s also hooked on the aviation biz. “She does most of the work,” says London.
“It’s nice having a legend for a mom,” Ardizzone says. “But she’s a tough act to follow in aviation.”