#167 Jackie Cochran Aviation

Summary Notes


Aviation pioneer Jackie Cochran's remarkable life is a testament to relentless ambition and the pursuit of excellence. From her impoverished beginnings in rural Florida, where she didn't own shoes until age eight and foraged for food, Cochran rose to become a renowned aviatrix, setting numerous flight records and founding the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) during WWII. Her friendship with Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, led to her own barrier-breaking flight as the first woman to achieve the feat. Cochran's drive extended beyond aviation; she also founded a successful cosmetics company. Her story, as chronicled in her autobiography, inspires with its themes of overcoming adversity, shattering glass ceilings, and living a life of "continuous adventure."

Summary Notes

Introduction to Jackie Cochran

  • Jackie Cochran was a significant figure in aviation history.
  • She was known for her achievements in aviation boards and committees.
  • Cochran was a famous aviatrix before World War II and a friend of Amelia Earhart.
  • During WWII, she led the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and ferried B-17 bombers to England.
  • She had unique experiences such as trading with a Russian soldier for Hitler's gold doorknob and attending the surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri.
  • Jackie was determined, ambitious, and had significant influence due to her marriage to Floyd Odlum, owner of multiple companies.
  • Her friendship with Chuck Yeager lasted over 25 years until her and her husband's deaths.
  • Jackie Cochran's early life was marked by extreme poverty and hardship.

"I'm Jackie Cochrane, she said, pumping my hand. Great job, Captain Yeager. We're all really proud of you." This quote introduces Jackie Cochran and her immediate acknowledgment of Chuck Yeager's accomplishments, setting the stage for their friendship.

Jackie Cochran's Aviation Career

  • Jackie Cochran held numerous aviation records for speed, altitude, and distance.
  • Her aviation career spanned 40 years, from the 1930s to the jet age.
  • She was the first woman to break the sound barrier and won the Harmon Trophy 14 times.
  • Despite starting to fly in her mid-20s, she continued to set records into her 60s.

"At the time of her death, Jacqueline Cochran held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other pilot, male or female, in aviation history." This quote from the National Air and Space Museum highlights Cochran's extraordinary achievements in aviation.

Jackie Cochran's Personal Attributes and Philosophy

  • Jackie Cochran was a self-made success, overcoming a poverty-stricken background.
  • She was described as an irresistible force with extraordinary energy, talent, and determination.
  • Cochran was known for her persistence, generosity, and aggressive nature.
  • Her life was characterized by her passion for flying and living life to the fullest.
  • She believed in taking risks and was unapologetically ambitious.

"To live without risk for me would have been tantamount to death." This quote encapsulates Jackie's philosophy on life, emphasizing the importance of taking risks and being proactive in pursuing one's goals.

Jackie Cochran's Early Life and Challenges

  • Jackie Cochran's childhood was marked by extreme poverty, lack of education, and neglect.
  • She had to forage for food and wore clothes made from flower sacks.
  • Despite these hardships, she was determined to be clean and different from her surroundings.
  • She questioned her origins but decided not to let her past define her future.
  • Jackie eventually left her foster family, chose her own name, and forged her own path.

"Until I was eight years old, I had no shoes. My bed was usually a pallet on the floor and sometimes just the floor." This quote provides insight into the severe deprivation Jackie experienced in her early years, which she overcame to achieve success.

Jackie Cochran's Drive and Ego

  • Jackie was driven to escape poverty and achieve her goals.
  • She was not content with mediocrity and strove for excellence in everything she did.
  • Her ego and self-belief were significant factors in her success.
  • Jackie's story demonstrates the power of believing in oneself and relentless pursuit of one's ambitions.

"Whenever I turned on a light, I'd think of how my foster family had been able to sit back and sit around the goddamn moho lamp, not me." This quote reflects Jackie's determination to improve her life circumstances and her refusal to accept the status quo.

Jackie Cochran's Self-Confidence and Assertiveness

  • Jackie Cochran expresses her self-confidence and belief in her abilities, emphasizing the importance of speaking truthfully about oneself.
  • She reflects on the need to advocate for oneself, as others may not acknowledge one's capabilities.
  • Jackie's assertiveness is compared to other influential figures who possess strong self-belief, such as Kanye West and Tom Ford.

"I can fly as well as any men entered in that race. I didn't see it as being boastful so much as speaking the truth."

This quote illustrates Jackie's confidence in her flying skills and her perspective on self-promotion as a necessity rather than arrogance.

"Kanye west said one time that his biggest regret in life was never being able to see himself perform live. I could see Jackie saying something very similar."

The quote draws a parallel between Jackie's self-assurance and Kanye West's regret, showcasing her high self-regard and desire to recognize her own achievements.

Jackie Cochran's Childhood and Foster Care Experience

  • Jackie overhears a conversation about her biological family, indicating a lack of connection and information about her roots.
  • She feels inherently different from her peers, despite her foster mother's efforts to keep her unaware of her distinct background.
  • Jackie's early life experiences shape her sense of independence and resilience.

"Jackie doesn't know she's any different from the others. So that's what her mom says. This is Jackie writing. She disagrees with that statement."

This quote reveals a discrepancy between Jackie's foster mother's intentions and Jackie's own self-awareness of her distinctiveness.

The Impact of Positive Influences

  • Jackie's life is significantly influenced by a teacher named Miss Boswick, who teaches her self-care, love, and the importance of independence.
  • The kindness of Miss Boswick contrasts with the lack of affection from Jackie's family, highlighting the profound effect a single positive influence can have on a person's life trajectory.

"I'll never fully understand why Miss Boswick came south that next year and took me in her arms. All I know is that she became the greatest positive influence on my early life."

This quote reflects on the transformative impact Miss Boswick had on Jackie, teaching her essential life skills and emotional support.

Jackie Cochran's Drive for Independence and Wealth

  • At a young age, Jackie works in a cotton mill, where she discovers her ambition to be wealthy and independent.
  • She associates money with freedom and is determined to achieve her dreams, regardless of others' skepticism.
  • Jackie's early work experiences demonstrate her strong work ethic and goal-oriented mindset.

"I'm going to be rich, I'd say, knowing even then that they thought I was silly or crazy. I'll wear fine clothes, own my own automobile, and have adventures all over the world."

Jackie's declaration of her aspirations shows her unwavering ambition and belief in her ability to achieve wealth and independence.

Taking Opportunities and Pursuing Ambitions

  • Jackie continuously seeks better opportunities, demonstrating her willingness to take risks and aim for the top in her chosen professions.
  • She transitions from working in a beauty salon to operating a permanent wave machine, seizing the chance to move to a new city and advance her career.

"To get the best performance to do better than anyone has ever done before, you've got to take chances."

This quote encapsulates Jackie's philosophy on success, emphasizing the necessity of taking risks to excel and achieve one's goals.

Self-Sufficiency and Determination

  • Jackie's obsession with self-sufficiency is evident in her actions, from finding room and board to learning car repairs.
  • Her determination to live in an elegant house and her persistence in persuading the owner reflect her tenacity and salesmanship skills.
  • Jackie's success in her work and her ability to earn a significant income showcase her drive to be independent and her competence in her field.

"I never lost my compulsion to be totally self sufficient. I even learned how to repair the engine on my car."

The quote highlights Jackie's relentless pursuit of self-reliance and her proactive approach to ensuring her independence.

Personal Investment in Knowledge

  • Jackie Cochran personally ground the valves on her engine, demonstrating her hands-on approach and belief in understanding the intricacies of her tools.
  • She embodies the philosophy of learning everything possible about the important things in her life, mirroring the approach of Chuck Yeager.
  • Both Jackie and Chuck emphasized the practical benefits of this knowledge, such as saving one's life or improving performance.

"I personally ground the valves on that engine, and the engine paid me back for my labors." "Take away from Jackie. She's going to learn everything that she possibly can about the thing that is important to her."

This quote highlights Jackie's meticulous nature and her belief that hard work and deep understanding of her tools would bring reciprocal benefits. It sets the stage for her philosophy of thorough knowledge acquisition.

Consequences of Ignoring Expertise

  • Chuck Yeager's experience with another pilot who dismissed his detailed manual demonstrates the dangers of underestimating expert knowledge.
  • The pilot's accident after ignoring Chuck's notes reflects a lack of respect for the necessity of learning, a sentiment shared by Jackie.

"The pilot was dismissive. He's like, oh, I don't need your notes. I'll figure it out for myself... And he winds up having an accident."

This quote illustrates the potential consequences of ignoring expert advice and the importance that both Jackie and Chuck place on gathering as much knowledge as possible.

Relativity of Happiness and Growth from Poverty

  • Jackie Cochran's perspective on happiness is shaped by her upbringing, suggesting that growing up poor taught her to be content and resilient.
  • She emphasizes a "sustaining line of life" that her experiences have given her, indicating a deep understanding of life's essentials.
  • Jackie's italicized statement in her book underscores the importance of the lesson she learned from poverty: that she could never have so little that she hadn't had less.

"Because of where I came from and then where I went, I ended up understanding intimately one very sustaining line of life." "I could never have so little that I hadn't had less."

These quotes underscore Jackie's belief that her impoverished background provided her with a unique perspective on life, instilling in her a fearless attitude and a strong sense of self-worth.

Self-Awareness and Confidence

  • Jackie Cochran acknowledges her large ego and self-confidence, which she considers an asset that contributed to her success.
  • Her confidence allowed her to be unfazed by criticism and to use her self-belief as a tool to achieve her goals.

"The fact is, I had undeniable self-belief in myself is that the reason I was able to accomplish so much."

This quote captures Jackie's self-awareness and the value she places on self-confidence, viewing it as a crucial factor in her accomplishments rather than a trait to be criticized.

Career Transition and Ambition

  • Jackie Cochran's move from Alabama to New York City was driven by her desire for wealth and better opportunities.
  • Her early life, marked by hardship and ambition, is a significant part of her story and parallels the life of Chung Juyoung, the founder of Hyundai.

"I've made as much money as I can in the south. I'm going to New York City. I'm going to where all the action is because I want to chase wealth and it's going to afford me the opportunities that where I'm currently at in Alabama is not."

This quote reflects Jackie's ambition and strategic thinking, as she recognizes the limitations of her current environment and makes a bold move to pursue greater opportunities.

Unconventional Job Hunting Tactics

  • Jackie's approach to job hunting in New York was aggressive and direct, aiming for the top positions and refusing to compromise her standards.
  • Her interaction with Charles of the Ritz illustrates her confidence and willingness to negotiate hard, ultimately leading to a successful outcome despite initial rejection.

"Start at the top, Jackie. I said to myself one morning, out job hunting Charles of the Ritz."

The quote exemplifies Jackie's bold and unconventional approach to job hunting, which involved setting high goals and maintaining self-assuredness in the face of challenges.

Marriage and Shared Aspirations

  • Jackie met her husband, Floyd Odlum, in New York, and they shared similar goals of security, power, and fame.
  • Their marriage was bound by hard work and mutual ambition, with both having many schemes and dreams.

"There weren't night and day differences between Floyd and me... we were very much alike."

This quote highlights the compatibility between Jackie and Floyd in terms of their aspirations and work ethic, suggesting that their shared values were a strong foundation for their relationship.

Passion for Aviation

  • Upon discovering her love for flying, Jackie Cochran pursued her pilot's license with determination, overcoming the challenge of learning to fly in a short period.
  • Her immediate connection with flying and her ability to quickly grasp the feel of the plane are indicative of her natural talent and passion.

"Why have I waited so long? I can't believe that I've put this off. My reason for living."

Jackie's reaction to her first flying experience conveys her profound passion for aviation and her realization that it was her true calling, which drove her to quickly excel in the field.

Lifelong Learning and Mastery

  • Jackie's experience flying into a storm in Montreal was a turning point, making her aware of the dangers of ignorance in her chosen profession.
  • She emphasizes the importance of understanding the complexities of the air and weather, likening it to conquering unpredictable and invisible enemies.

"It wasn't until I hit the storm on the way back from Montreal that I could understand even remotely why aviation people were always talking about the conquest of the air."

This quote reflects Jackie's acknowledgment of the need for continuous learning and mastery in aviation, as well as the recognition of the challenges pilots face.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

  • Jackie Cochran's simultaneous pursuit of a cosmetics business while advancing her aviation career demonstrates her entrepreneurial spirit and ambition.
  • Her innovative approach to product development and distribution, including a greaseless night cream and hiring traveling saleswomen, contributed to her success.

"By 1934, after I had my commercial pilot's license, I wanted my own beauty business so I could end up at the top."

The quote shows Jackie's relentless drive to succeed and her desire to be in control of her own destiny, both in aviation and in business.

Confidence and Friendships

  • Jackie's self-assuredness was a key factor in her ability to accomplish her goals, and her confidence was recognized and admired by those around her.
  • Her friendships were characterized by loyalty and a willingness to support others, reflecting her strong personal values.

"Jackie always felt that there was nobody better than she was. She was equal to anybody and had as much confidence as anybody."

This quote encapsulates Jackie's self-perception and the impact her confidence had on her relationships and her ability to achieve success.

Jackie Cochran's Early Life and Hardships

  • Jackie Cochran reflected on her challenging early life, including experiences with sawmills, hunger, and natural disasters.
  • Despite adversities, she had remarkable experiences, such as meeting dignitaries and spending 40 years with her husband, Floyd.

"Sometimes I think of the sawmills, the hunger, the work of the earthquakes and hurricanes." This quote highlights Jackie's reflection on the difficult circumstances of her early life, emphasizing her resilience.

Founding of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASP)

  • Jackie Cochran became the first woman to fly a bomber to Great Britain during World War II.
  • Inspired by female pilots in Britain ferrying planes, she founded WASP in the United States.
  • WASP aimed to have women pilots ferry military equipment, thus freeing male pilots for combat.

"I was also convinced that our own women pilots might be needed. Should the time come when our own country needed to defend itself, women would want to do their part." Jackie recognized the potential for American women pilots to contribute to the war effort, leading to the establishment of WASP.

Overcoming Sexism in Aviation

  • Jackie Cochran faced significant sexism in the male-dominated field of aviation in the 1940s.
  • To prove women could handle heavy aircraft, she gained support from British and American officials but faced a compromise due to opposition from male pilots.
  • Despite obstacles, her determination led to the successful creation of WASP.

"In order to prove to US and British officials that women could handle such heavy aircraft as bombers and thus play a role in wartime flying activities, Jackie Cochrane gained the support of the British minister of supply and the American general Hap Arnold to allow her to ferry a bomber to England because of opposition by male ferry pilots." This quote describes the sexism Jackie faced and the compromise she had to make to pilot a bomber across the Atlantic.

Jackie Cochran's Leadership and Vision

  • Jackie Cochran recruited mainly young women pilots and led with intense determination.
  • Under General Arnold's direction, she aimed to train 5,000 women but ultimately trained about 1,000.
  • WASP had three objectives: to prove women could serve as military pilots, to release male pilots for combat, and to decrease the Air Force's demands on manpower.

"I had three objectives. Number one, to see if women could serve as military pilots, and if so, to form the nucleus of an organization that could be rapidly expanded. Two, to release male pilots for combat." This quote outlines the strategic goals Cochran set for WASP, showcasing her foresight and leadership.

Jackie Cochran's Tenacity and Influence

  • Jackie Cochran was known for her relentless pursuit of goals and refusal to quit.
  • Her personality and determination were widely recognized and admired.
  • Chuck Yeager, a famous pilot, acknowledged Jackie's uniqueness and impact.

"She knew what she wanted, and she was not going to give up until she got it." This quote captures Jackie's unwavering determination to achieve her goals, regardless of the obstacles.

Post-War Activities and Humanitarian Efforts

  • After World War II, Jackie visited Germany, including Hitler's bunker, and helped a struggling German mother, reflecting her compassionate side.
  • She always carried food due to childhood experiences of hunger.
  • Jackie's salesmanship and ability to promote ideas were crucial to her success in the military and beyond.

"I've always been a very good salesman. My whole life has been built on promotion and sales." Jackie emphasizes the importance of presentation and persuasion in achieving one's goals, drawing on her own experience.

Breaking the Sound Barrier and Later Life

  • Jackie Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier, describing it as the greatest thrill of her life.
  • Despite health issues later in life, she continued to pursue aviation through soaring.
  • Her reflections on life, death, and the universe reveal her philosophical perspective and simple approach to religion.

"Believe me, breaking the sound barrier and being the first woman to do it was the greatest thrill of my life." This quote highlights a significant milestone in Jackie's life, showcasing her passion for aviation and her drive to achieve groundbreaking feats.

Legacy and Philosophy

  • Jackie Cochran's life was characterized by continuous adventure, determination, and the ability to influence history.
  • She believed in living life to the fullest and pursuing one's passions relentlessly.
  • Her philosophy was that with faith and effort, one could reshape the world and achieve great things.

"I ended up living a life of continuous adventure. I think it was Peter Pan who said, to die will be an awfully big adventure." In this quote, Jackie reflects on her adventurous spirit and her belief in the significance of both life and death.

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