Originally Published: August 19, 2007 7:22 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Irene Leverton took to the air for the first time at in 1944 by joining the Civil Air Patrol in her hometown of Chicago, and she has not looked back since.
Leverton, 80, said that she has logged 25,460 hours of flying time, and continues to fly.
She blazed a trail as one of few women at the time who pursued careers in aviation, and dealt with sex discrimination that cost her higher pay and other opportunities. Among other things, she was one of only 13 women who qualified in 1961 to become astronauts through the Mercury space flights program.
Over the years, she has received numerous honors. They included being inducted in 2002 into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson and receiving the Chicago Adler Planetarium's 2005 Women in Science Award.
Her lifetime of achievements helped Leverton to garner an honorary doctor in science degree from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh in May.
The university recognized her for outstanding aeronautical achievements in aviation "from the days of the barn-storming pilots to the dawn of extra-planetary exploration," stated Prescott resident William Lynam, commander of the Civil Air Patrol in the tri-city area.
The Civil Air Patrol is an Air Force auxiliary that engages in search and rescue, and other missions, said Lynam, who has known Leverton for five years.
"She's been a very dedicated woman," Lynam said. "She has made aviation her life and her love. She has multiple credentials."
Leverton, who has lived in the tri-city area for more than 20 years and currently resides in a seniors-only apartment complex in Prescott, displayed newspaper clippings, logbooks and other memorabilia during an interview this past week.
Leverton said that she became a commercial flight instructor in 1948, and earned numerous ratings for commercial flight instruction during her career.
She became a flight examiner in 1982, eventually quitting in 1996 because she said the flight schools "did not like me. They wanted to have their own pilot examiner." She also retired from the Civil Air Patrol in 2005.
Leverton, who remained single because frequent job changes and moves made it difficult to become married, said that she continues to provide flight instruction to owners of private aircraft.
"I'm still doing it (flying) now, except I'm old and fussy," she said.