Published: Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 1BBy Cynthia Hubert
Probably not, she reluctantly concludes. After all, Lockness is nearing her 100th birthday, and she sold her last airplane a decade ago.
But "oh, what fun I had," Lockness recalls of her pioneering days as a pilot. "It's wonderful to fly."
"Amelia was a hero to all of us," Lockness said, "especially to me."
Lockness began training two years after Earhart's plane disappeared in 1937 during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Sixty years later, at age 87, Lockness became the 100th pilot to fly into Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport inAtchison, Kansas.
"I was thrilled to represent Amelia," she said, flipping through newspaper clippings about the event. "It was such an honor."
The petite and feisty Lockness has racked up numerous honors for an aviation career that spanned six decades and 10,000 flying hours.
She trained with the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II, was the 55th woman in the world to earn a commercial helicopter rating, and got licenses in flying seaplanes, gyroplanes, hot air balloons and gliders.
She has been recognized for her contributions to the public acceptance of women as pilots by Earhart's Ninety-Nines group and has awards from the Whirly Girls helicopter organization, theNational Aeronautic Association and the OX 5 Pioneers, among others.
So vast is her collection of medals, plaques, certificates, commemorative photographs and other memorabilia that she has trouble fitting it all into her small living space. Her name and pictures appear in several historical books, "but I guess I really should write a book of my own," Lockness said with a smile.
Her story began in Pennsylvania and moved to Ohio, where her parents farmed grain and potatoes. During the Great Depression she left the Midwest and traveled with her young husband to California. They were raising a family near a tiny airport in Wilmington when the flying bug bit.
"I would see the little planes take off and land, and think, 'I would like to do that,' " she said. "I had followed Amelia and the old-time fliers, and I thought it would be so great to be up there, so carefree."
After "getting my four kids off to school," Lockness said, she started training. "I was the only woman out there, of course. Cars would line up to watch this crazy woman fly planes."
Lockness obtained her license at age 29 and later joined the WASPs, becoming one of the first women to fly United States military aircraft. The WASPs, who flew domestic missions to free male pilots for overseas duty, disbanded in 1946.
Lockness had found her passion, but her husband did not approve and the couple divorced.
Lockness became a flight instructor and ultimately owned nine planes, including her beloved Vultee-Stinson warbird, the "Swamp Angel," which she piloted around the country.
In her second husband, Robert Lockness, she found a man who shared her love of flying and fast cars. "We would map out a route and just go," she said.
At 99 years old, Doris Lockness still drives a shiny white Jaguar to the market, and is an honorary member of the Sacramento Jaguar Club. She has never had a serious health problem, she said, and her knees are as strong as ever, "probably from pushing rudders for all those years."
Lockness still gets a little giddy when she hears the roar of an airplane or the thumping of a helicopter rotor. "I look up at the sky, and I can't believe I used to do all that," she said.
In February, Lockness will turn 100, and she knows exactly how she wants to celebrate.
"I want to go for a helicopter ride," she said. "I don't think they'll let me fly it, but I want to go up again."