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5:06 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Prescott aviatrix still young at 86

Irene Leverton prepares for a flight in 2012. (Mike Coligny/Courtesy photo)

Irene Leverton prepares for a flight in 2012. (Mike Coligny/Courtesy photo)

Sunday marked the 86th birthday of Prescott's own Irene Leverton. Besides being an internationally known aviatrix who began her flying career in 1944, she was also chosen to be one of the Mercury 13. The Mercury 13 in 1961 completed the complete astronauts training course given at that time to all of the Mercury astronauts. The purpose of this training was to prove that women could perform in space.

Leverton's flying background which included a  commercial pilot's license with airplane single and multi-engine land ratings, instrument ratings, airplane single-engine sea ratings and 9,000 flight hours was far more than any of the now famous Mercury  astronauts.

For 50-plus years, she performed almost every job in the profession including crop dusting, glider pilot, corporate pilot, ferry pilot, phase check pilot, consultant, FAA pilot examiner, U.S. Forest Service contract pilot, commuter airline pilot, air ambulance pilot, and flight instructor. Her flight time exceeds 25,000 hours.

Leverton has earned many awards, honors and accolades, including FAA Master Pilot, Charter Member of the Women's Airline Transport Pilot's Association (1969), Women with Wings Award (1986), and induction into the Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of fame in 1996.