Dual-control P-51C Mustang
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WWII female aviator dies

Dual-control P-51C Mustang
Violet Cowden, 89, one of the military’s first female aviators during World War II, is seated in the rear of the world’s only dual-control P-51C Mustang as it arrives from San Diego at Long Beach Airport for a vintage aircraft show. Thousands of P-51s were built in Long Beach. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Cowden during World War II
Cowden flew 19 different types of “pursuit planes” during World War II, including the Mustang, as she helped deliver new aircraft from factories to military bases across the nation. She served in a branch of the Army Air Forces known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots. ()
Cowden poses aboard P-51C Mustang
Cowden poses aboard a P-51C Mustang after flying into Long Beach Airport with members of Wings of Freedom, a group that showcases vintage airplanes. The Mustang will be on display along with a B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 bomber. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Cowden’s uniform
Cowden proudly wears her Women Airforce Service Pilots uniform. She was part of a very small group of women who broke the gender barrier during World War II, logging enough hours to become the first female aviators to serve in the military. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Cowden is greeted by well-wisher
Cowden is greeted by a well-wisher after landing at Long Beach Airport. She said she was thrilled to be back in the cockpit of a P-51, thousands of which were built in Long Beach. At 89, she took her first paragliding trip and her second parachute jump. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)