There comes a time when all of us must depart and after 105 years it is sad that our longest serving member in the First Canadian Chapter, Ninety-Nines has passed away.
Godspeed Dorothy Rungeling, you were such a dynamic inspirational lady to all who crossed paths with you throughout your life.
We will remember your exploits, cherish your memory in our Stamp, and visit the only airport in Canada named after a female in your honour – the Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport.
Dorothy was 106 years old.
Rungeling’s passion for flying, and her love of the community where she grew up, have changed the face of Canadian aviation and helped shape the local landscape. Credited for her work helping to save the Niagara Central Airport, it was renamed the Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport in 2015. In 2003, Rungeling was awarded the Order of Canada for her many accomplishments in aviation. Despite these honours, Rungeling’s path to becoming a pilot was not a simple one. Out of fear that people would be upset by the idea of a female pilot, Rungeling said she didn’t tell anyone — including her family — that she was training to get her pilot’s licence.
“It was a secret of mine,” she said.
“Nobody knew I was learning to fly because I thought everybody would be against it, but they weren’t.”
The last time Rungeling piloted an airplane was in the early 1970s, however she recalls her first flight in 1948 as if it were yesterday.
“My first flight up, there were very few instruments on the panel at that time” Rungeling explained.
“I looked at them and I don’t know what happened. I was scared to death when I first got in the airplane and then when I came out I was all for learning.”
She remembers how odd it felt in the beginning, sitting stationary at the controls while flying.
“[Up in the sky] there’s a strange feeling of not moving,” she said.
“I remember asking the instructor, ‘When are we going to start moving?’ He started to laugh and said we were doing 120 miles per hour.”
Rungeling went on to have an illustrious career as an air-racer and an advocate for women in aviation. Throughout her life, Rungeling has been a pioneer for women in aviation. She was the first Canadian woman to attain a commercial air license, and to compete in international air races. She entered several Canadian and International aviation contests, including: All Women’s International Air Races, the Women’s Transcontinental Air Races, and the Canadian Governor-General’s Cup Air Race. At the age of 99, Rungeling added to her list of firsts by becoming the oldest Canadian woman to fly a helicopter solo.
To learn more about Dorothy, check our webpage on Female Canadian Aviators,