In 1929, Olive Ann had played a vital behind-the-scenes-role when the speedy Travel Air “Mystery Ship” won the first Thompson Trophy Race, thus becoming the first civilian plane to defeat the fastest military fighters in open competition.
Formed the Beech Aircraft Company with her husband Walter.
In 1934 they introduced the Beechcraft Staggerwing biplane to serve corporate and airline needs.
Suggested that the entry of a woman in the 1936 transcontinental Bendix Trophy Race to advertise the Staggerwing. Louise Thaden (enshrined in 1999) not only promoted the aircraft, but competed against the nation’s best male pilots and won the coveted Bendix.
During World War II she temporarily headed the company while her husband was ill and delivered various military aircraft.
By the end of the war, Beech had built more than 7,400 military aircraft and won five Army-Navy “E” awards for production efficiency.
As chairwoman of the board and president of the corporation following her husband’s death, the company became involved in the space program. She directed a diversified manufacturing complex whose products range from a 150 mile-an-hour training airplane to supersonic missile targets and serve in civilian and military roles worldwide.
The first woman to head a major aircraft company.
Was known as the “First Lady of Aviation” because she earned more awards, honorary appointments, and special citations than any woman in aviation history.