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Elaine McCalley, Idaho Aviation Pioneer

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Idaho 99s visited Elaine McCalley, the 105-year-old who was the fourth woman pilot in Idaho. Eleven members flew in four planes on July 2, 2023, to Mountain Home. Elaine and her daughter, Val, and local friends met us at the airport FBO.

Elaine grew up in Gooding, Idaho, and caught the flying bug when barnstormers came to town and she convinced her parents to let her take a ride in a Pitcairn Autogyro for $2.50. Elaine graduated high school and got a job in Boise. In 1938 she took her first paycheck to the Boise Municipal Airport to begin flight lessons in a J-3 Cub. She earned her private pilot license in 1939. By 1940 Elaine had 75 hours of flight time and became the first woman in Idaho to earn the limited commercial license.

Elaine was active as a member and a leader of the Associated Women Pilots of Boise and the Northwest. The Boise Hangar group became the Idaho 99s chapter of the International Ninety-Nines in 1954. This group of women, given the nickname of, Flying Heels, "are the flying bunch of women I've ever seen," as noted in the Idaho Statesman in 1941. Elaine also served as secretary and president of the Boise chapter of the Idaho Pilots Association. The group put on the first airathon in Boise in 1940.

Elaine married in 1943 and moved to Missouri with her husband, Val Berriochoa, who was a flight trainer in the US Army Air Force. When they returned to Idaho after the war, Elaine continued to fly some and be involved in aviation while raising her family. Her son, Mike Berriochoa, is a pilot and an announcer for airshows. She enjoys the airshows and is very proud of him and her grandson who is also involved in flying.

Her secrets to living a long, healthy life are to "stay active with your body and mind." Elaine still goes to the gym three days a week. She keeps her mind active by using the computer to read and correspond. She writes the newsletter for her PEO chapter.

The Idaho Aviation Hall of Fame honored Elaine in 1999 as an early aviation leader. In 2017 Elaine was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award by the Federal Aviation Administration. The award recognizes individuals who have held a pilot certificate for more than 50 years and have an unblemished safety record.


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