WMU News

Aviation legend puts her personal jet in WMU's hands

Oct. 28, 2004

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.--Suzanne D. Parish, one of the nation's best known pioneering women aviators, today turned her personal jet over to officials at Western Michigan University's College of Aviation to boost the college's work with future aviation professionals.

Parish, whose flying days date back to World War II and her service in the WASP-- Women's Airforce Service Pilots--came to Battle Creek to turn over control of her 1984 Cessna 425 Conquest to the college. The transfer occurred during a brief ceremony that included WMU President Judith I. Bailey and Capt. Rick Maloney, dean of the college.

"I remember so vividly being a young person and first learning about the possibilities that are part of the aviation industry," says Parish. "I'm delighted to know my aircraft now will be a part of an aviation education community I admire. I feel I've found a good home for the plane--one where it can be studied and cared for by the College of Aviation and where it can be used in the college's transportation role."

Parish will retain ownership of the 1984 aircraft, but has agreed to lease it to WMU for $1 per year. The plane has been idle for three years and will require about a year of work to restore it to an airworthy state. WMU students are expected to play a major role in that restoration process.

"We are so pleased that Sue has chosen to make a statement about our role in the aviation world with this move," said Bailey in accepting the transfer. "Just knowing we have her support for our work is a wonderful validation of what we do here. I think it's particularly important to note that this is an aviation college that works tirelessly to boost women's access to the aviation professions. Knowing of Sue's pioneering efforts in that arena, her support is particularly welcomed."

Maloney praised Parish's generosity and said having the plane on campus is all the more meaningful because of the person it represents.

"We're all aviators and we're here because we love this profession," Maloney said. "We know how much she has contributed over the years and what she means to the field. I'm going to be really proud to be able to say, 'This is Sue Parish's plane and she's letting us use it.'"

Parish, a member of the pharmaceutical industry's Upjohn family, began flying in 1942 near her home in Kalamazoo. She was the first woman inducted into the Experimental Aircraft Association's Warbird Hall of Fame. The co-founder of the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, Parish is renowned for more than a decade of flying her signature pink P-40 Warhawk in national air shows. That plane now hangs in the entry to the Kalamazoo Air Zoo.

Her signature pink colors can be found on the Cessna now housed at the College of Aviation as well. The camouflage pink exterior is the same Libyan Desert color of the P-40 Warhawk she flew for years.

The Cessna 425, with a seating capacity of five to seven passengers, is small enough to get into smaller airports and is considered quick and agile. It has a cruising speed of 285 mph and a range of 1,400 miles.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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