Burnt Marshmallows Taste Good

Katherine Sui Fun Cheung

  • Katherine Cheung was born in Canton, China in 1904 and immigrated to America when she was 17
  • She first pursued a career in music which led her to enroll at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music
  • Katherine earned a Bachelor of Music degree in piano and went on to train at California State Polytechnic University Pomona and USC
  • She became interested in aviation after her father took her to Dycer airfield to teach her how to drive
  • While there she saw planes take off and land which sparked her interest in aviation
  • Around that time, George Young, her father’s business partner, proposed to her and she accepted under the condition that she could keep her last name and leave college
  • Katherine and George Young were married, and she dropped out of USC after 3 years
  • In 1932, Katherine signed up for flight lessons at the Chinese Aeronautical Association after flying with her cousin who was a pilot
  • She flew solo for the first time after having only 12 ½ hours of experience
  • In 1932 She earned her pilot license and became the first Chinese American woman to pilot a plane legally
  • After getting her license she was added to the Chinese Aeronautical Associations list of aid pilots
  • Katherine soon began stunt flying after earning license and performed at events around the U.S.
  • In 1935, she joined the Ninety Nines club for female pilots
  • In 1936, she joined the American Aviation Association and that same year the Chinese American community raised 2,000 dollars for her so she could buy a 125 horsepower Fleet biplane
  • She than entered a 7 day race from Los Angeles to Cleveland
  • Katherine came in last but she received a lot of publicity for her efforts
  • She later entered a Glendale to San Diego race where she competed against other female pilots
  • Katherine came in fourth this time
  • In 1937, she planned a trip to China to deliver supplies and offer flying lessons to women, but she was denied a transport pilot’s license
  • Chinese American women’s organizations stepped in and raised money for her to buy a large plane that could handle the trip to China
  • The day before her takeoff, Katherine’s cousin took the plane on a test run and was killed when the plane crashed
  • Her cousin’s death and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, worried her father greatly and he begged her to stop flying
  • Katherine did stop flying but still focused on opening a flight school in China
  • In late 1937, the school opened and Katherine stayed in China for five years
  • In 1942, she fled the then Japanese occupied China and moved back to Los Angeles
  • That year she officially retired from flying and focused on raising her two daughters
  • Katherine Cheung died in 2003 at the age of 98 from natural causes

Source: persephone magazine, la times, aviatrix, pinterest

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