At 94, Betty Strohfus boards another B-17

At 94, Betty Strohfus boards another B-17

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (KMSP) -

The AirExpo at Flying Cloud Airport is truly for aviation enthusiasts of all ages, but possibly one of the oldest veterans at the show has earned her stripes in more ways than one.

Her excitement is contagious. Chatting about flying with 94-year-old Liz “Betty” Strohfus, it's hard to believe she first took to the skies more than 7 decades ago.

“20 years old, it was love at first sight,” she said.

Betty, as she's better known, was living in her hometown of Faribault when a spot opened up at the local sky club.

“They were so good to me -- me and 17 fellas!,” she said, “This fella was giving people flights, so he would take them up about 3,000 feet and do a spin and they'd say ‘down,’ so we did a spin, I said, ‘One more time.’ Well, after about 10 one more times. He was sick. I wasn't,” she recalled.

Soon after that the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Betty enlisted in 1943 and out of 25,000 applicants.. She was one of just 1,800 picked to be a Woman Airforce Service Pilot or “WASP.”

Eager to share her stories whenever she can, Strohfus co-piloted 8 different aircraft during WWII.

“I realized at about age 12 or 13 she was the only person in town that could fly B-17 or B-26 I thought everybody's mother's did those things,” her son Art Strohfus said.

AirExpo organizers ended up making special arrangements for her, and her son told her she would be hopping aboard another B-17 on Saturday. And she was downright giddy. The heavy bomber built in the 30s was just the way she remembered.

“Boy, there’s a lot of bullets, they sure are pretty but they do terrible things,” she remarked. “I love this ride. I don't think I’ll leave the airplane.”

Closing her eyes and enjoying the rumble of the engine and the ride, Strohfus has a lot to be proud of. After WASPS had been ignored for decades, it was Strohfus who helped lobby Congress to make sure women of her era were recognized as veterans.

“Oh, I got the memories. Thank god I can still remember them.”

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