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Female aviator Frances Sargent honored in ceremony at airport

Frances Sargent once was honored at Wings by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Frances Sargent once was honored at Wings by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Family and friends of South Florida’s aviation history memorialized the late female aviator Frances Roher Sargent during a special service on Feb. 8 hosted by Wings Over Miami at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who had honored Sargent and other famed World War II women pilots at the Kendall aviation museum in 2009, presented a U.S. flag flown over the Capitol building to family members in recognition of Sargent’s service to the country.

Her survivors attending the observance included a son and daughter, Kenny Sargent and Donna Sargent; Jimmy Timmons and Kenny Sargent, grandsons; Patty Sargent LaRusso, former daughter-in-law; Terry Timmons, son-in-law, and Erica Timmons, her great-granddaughter. The service was held in the hangar adjacent to the Wings Museum that includes posters and photos along with other memorabilia that highlight the wartime service of Sargent and other Florida women in the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II.

“She was my inspiration to join the museum and later become active in popularizing aviation history through Wings Over Miami,” said Suzette Rice, now president of thr museum.

Sargent also was well known as the first female aviation professor at Miami-Dade College and served as an active member of the board of directors of Wings Over Miami since 2003. In 2009, she was designated a director emeritus for her long years of support for military and civilian aviation, her involvement in aviation education and for her commitment to the Wings Museum.

Beginning a flying career in 1941, she was recruited into the WASP services for training in 1943, eventually serving the war effort by towing aerial targets to train ground-based antiaircraft crews, dropping chaff to give ground soldiers experience in shooting at a moving target.

The WASPs were disbanded in December 1944 and women did not fly in the military until the late 1970s. Sargent married and settled in Charlotte, NC, for 10 years before moving to Florida in 1956.

After Sargent’s children were in school, she started flying again and obtained her FAA Flight Instructor’s Certificate. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Florida Atlantic University and her master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Miami.

In 1961 she joined the faculty of Miami-Dade Community College in its newly formed aviation program. She held an Air Transport Pilot Certificate and a Gold Seal Certified Flight Instructor, as well as a commercial Glider Pilot, and served as an FAA Examiner for the written tests for 20 years.

A faculty advisor of the MDCC Flight Team and the National Intercollegiate Flying Association for a number of years, she was the first woman president of the University Aviation Association.

Her achievements brought her a number of awards. In 1996, she was awarded the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Award from the Greater Miami Aviation Association. She also was awarded the Amelia Earhart Scholarship from the Ninety Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots. In 1987 she retired as professor emeritus from Miami-Dade Community College.

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