James G. “Jimmy” Haizlip has long been a legendary figure in aeronautical racing circles. He first learned to fly as a young man with the French during World War I. Although he was among the first American air cadets sent abroad, his outstanding performance in training and his skill in fighter tactics led to his selection as one of 10 allied trained Americans to serve as advanced instructors back in this country. After the armistice in 1918, he continued to instruct in California and then flew border patrol missions along the Rio Grande.
He resigned his commission and returned to school in Oklahoma where he continued to fly under a commercial license. He also took the time to pursue and marry a young coed named Mary who quickly took to aviation. ” Jimmy” soon taught her to fly and she became the second woman ever to hold a commercial pilot’s license. As individuals, Jimmy and Mary Haizlip boast accomplishments that rival the feats of the greatest flyers, and, as a married couple, they dominated civilian air racing in the 1930s.
He won the famed Bendix Race of 1932, and, during the same year, she established a women’s world speed record that held for 7 years. He broke Jimmy Doolittle’s transcontinental record, and she flew six different racing airplanes in a 10-day period at the Cleveland National Air Races. He went to England in 1936 and won both heats of the 2-day Wakefield Cup International Air Race Competition. In the early 1940s, Mary became a test pilot for American Eagle Company and the Spartan Aircraft Company, and later was named chief test pilot for Buhl Aircraft Company.
In 1981 she was the first woman ever inducted into the Oklahoma Aviation Hall of Fame. Their successes in racing competition and their close associations with Jimmy Doolittle, James Wedell, Amelia Earhart, and many others place them in the annals of great pioneers of air racing.