Olive Ann Beech was the first woman to head a major aircraft company and was the most successful female executive in aviation history. Her efforts led Beech to become a powerhouse aviation company. 1904-1993.
|Olive Ann Beech standing in front of a portrait of her husband, Walter. Photo courtesy Wichita-Sedgwick Co. Historical Museum.|
As Travel Air grew, Stearman and Cessna split off to start their own companies which grew into Boeing Military Airplane Company and Cessna Aircraft Company. Miss Mellor advanced from bookkeeper to office manager to Mr. Beech's secretary. Eventually, she would oversee much of the company's business, marry Walter Beech and, in 1931, help him co-found Beech Aircraft Company.
In 1940, Walter Beech was
struck by illness and hospitalized for nearly a year. Olive Ann Beech guided
the company through the wartime production expansion by arranging several huge
financial packages. In 1943, the New York Times picked her as one of the
12 most distinguished women in
died in 1950, she became president of Beech Aircraft and was responsible for
Beech's diversification and teaming up with other aircraft companies to produce
jet fighters, transports and helicopters.
The next year, she was named woman of the year in aviation by Women's National Aeronautical Association. In 1956, she appeared on the cover of Business Week magazine. In 1965, she was chosen Outstanding Woman in the Field of Business by Who's Who of American Women. In 1973, Fortune Magazine called her one of the 10 highest-ranking women executives in major corporations. In 1980, Olive Ann Beech was the first woman awarded the National Aeronautic Association's Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, which has been called aviation's highest honor.
In 1980, she oversaw the merger with Raytheon and became a member of the Raytheon board of directors. She stepped down as chairman of Beech in 1982, two years after the company was merged into Raytheon Co.
Sources: Articles in the The Wichita Eagle by Beccy Tanner and Joe Earle's (Feb. 11, 1985). Earle's article was found in wingsoverkansas.com.
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