On Aug. 12, Miller, now 86, flew with local pilot Randy Mitchell in his Cessna 172, the type of plane Miller had used often in the past to teach flight lessons.
Mitchell gave Miller an updated look at today’s aviation tools in action, and with good morning weather and a new friend beside her, Miller took the controls for the first time in several years for a flight around the valley. She even landed the plane perfectly.
“It’s always nice to see an area from above,” said Miller. “And Randy was really good to work with. He was aware of the area and was able to inform me of what’s going on where.”
Associates at Life Care Center of Bountiful, where Miller resides, arranged the flight with Mitchell.
Miller’s story is fascinating. Right after high school, she got a job broadcasting weather and flight conditions to pilots with the Civil Aeronautics Authority (now the Federal Aviation Administration). When a pilot friend took her up for her first flight, she loved it and began to pursue her own pilot’s license. She worked for the FAA in various states, including Utah and Nevada. Her aptitude enabled her to fly a variety of aircraft, including helicopters and the famous Goodyear blimp.
Together, Miller and her husband, Charles, managed the Santa Monica Flyers aviation training school in California. She served as senior flight instructor and office manager, and the couple delivered planes overseas to many countries. Miller competed in several all-women flying races and was a member of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots created by Amelia Earhart.
In May 1963, Miller was ready for a bigger challenge – to be the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific. To do this she piloted a Piper Apache, beginning in Oakland, Calif., and ending in Brisbane, Australia. During the trip, she landed on very remote islands, flew through a typhoon and brought along a troll doll, her trademark flight buddy.
For her courage and achievement, she received a medal from President John F. Kennedy and the 1963 Harmon International Aviation Trophy from President Lyndon B. Johnson.