A pioneer pilot in the finest sense of the term, Nancy Hopkins Tier not only witnessed aviation’s coming of age; she helped mold it. Born in 1909 in Washington, D.C., into an illustrious family, her relatives included Dr. Johns Hopkins of university fame and American artist Charles Dana Gibson. Nancy learned to fly at the tender age of 18 and earned her limited commercial license (# 5889) in 1929 at Roosevelt Field, New York. Before earning her license, Nancy–always seeking adventure–flew down Pennsylvania Avenue over the Inaugural Parade for Herbert Hoover and can be personally thanked for some flight restrictions that now exist. She quickly earned her FAI Sporting License (#7677)–signed by Orville Wright–and her transport license in 1931.
During the early air race and derby era, Nancy was a sales representative for Viking Flying Boat Company’s Kittyhawk aircraft. In 1930, she flew the Kittyhawk as the only woman in the grueling 5000-mile Ford Reliability Tour and the 2000-mile Women’s Dixie Derby. Additionally, Nancy served as a hostess at Roosevelt Field, where she often rubbed elbows with many other greats of early American aviation. Crowned Connecticut Speed Champion in 1931 and Meridien Aviation Pylon Race Winner in 1932, she continued amassing trophies and titles up to 1992. Nancy had slowed down enough to fall in love with and marry Irving V. Tier in 1931, eventually rearing three children. While a wife and mother, Nancy was determined to continue her flying exploits, and was one of the first women to fly solo coast-to-coast in 1933.
In 1942, she joined the Civil Air Patrol and served for more than 18 years. She flew bomb patrols for the Civil Air Patrol during World War II and was their first female wing commander. She flew the first-day covers of the Amelia Earhart stamp in 1963 from Atchison to New York City and presented the covers to then-Mayor Wagner. C.W. Post University in 1976 and the Wings Club in 1983 honored Nancy for her aviation achievements. She was recognized for outstanding service to the Civil Air Patrol in 1981, elected to the “Pioneer Women in Aviation” Hall of Fame in 1992, and is an honorary member of the United States Air Force’s 38th Strategic Missile Wing.
Always an active aviation enthusiast who has supported the advance of women in aviation, Nancy is a charter member of the Ninety-Nines from their first meeting in 1929. Her most impassioned project was the creation of the International Women’s Air and Space Museum. This life-long dream was realized in March 1986, when Nancy presided as the museum’s president on its opening day. She served as president until 1994 and chairman of the board.