Pioneering feminine chemist and aviator nonetheless finds pleasure within the blue skies of Northeast Ohio: Womens Historical past Month

Pioneering female chemist and aviator still finds joy in the blue skies of Northeast Ohio: Womens History Month

CONCORD, Ohio For Caroline Naumann Luhta – nicknamed Connie – nothing was ever off limits.

Rising up in Painesville within the Nineteen Thirties — the one little one of a father eager for a son — she was showered with presents of baseball bats and mitts and electrical trains. So when she approached her father about going to varsity at a time when few ladies did, he did not bat a watch and inspired her to pursue a level in chemistry.

I owe all of it to my father. No matter I requested to do, he agreed. So I realized to do every part, Luhta stated, sitting within the frequent room at Harmony Airpark, staring out at a snow-covered runway on the small airfield she owns. He by no means as soon as stated I could not do one thing as a result of I used to be a woman, so I grew up believing I may.

Luhta put her chemistry schooling to work at Customary Oil’s (SOHIO) analysis laboratory in Warrensville Heights from 1952 to 1968, the place she developed checks for petroleum merchandise and was typically despatched to the refineries to show the male staff carry out them. She has printed a number of articles about her work in business journals.

She was paid $15 an hour lower than her male colleagues, and she or he typically demanded payback by ready on the lab door with heavy gear till one among her gallant colleagues would maintain it open for me. It was enjoyable.

When she was invited to fly with a buddy in a small aircraft to Canada, Luhta introduced sandwiches. At lunchtime the pilot requested her to fly the aircraft whereas he ate.

After I stated I did not know fly, he confirmed me preserve the aircraft straight and stage, and I shortly requested if he thought I may study to fly, too, she recalled. He stated after all, in order quickly as we landed I signed up for classes. Again then, it was a bit unusual for ladies to fly on a aircraft.

Luhta realized to fly an airplane on the now-defunct Casement Airport in Painesville and earned her pilot’s license in 1962 on the age of 31 regardless of having realized to fly with out figuring out trim an airplane.

The trainer who taught me had a damaged half on his aircraft so I by no means realized what trim was (used to take care of a relentless pitch – maintaining the aircraft stage and lowering the pilots workload). I actually needed to transfer that aircraft round to take off and land it. I did not know any completely different, so I did not complain.

As soon as licensed, Luhta started flying out of Harmony Airpark, the place she met and ultimately married Adolph Luhta, who constructed the two,200-foot runway on 70 acres of an outdated dairy farm alongside Harmony-Hambden Highway in 1954.

The couple had been married for nearly 25 years earlier than his loss of life in 1993. She has run the airport alone ever since.

Connie managed aviation whereas her husband targeted on his development enterprise. When she wasn’t sweeping the ground or refueling planes, she gave flying classes. She additionally stored the books for each corporations.

Their daughter, Cathy, grew up taking part in within the airpark workplace whereas Luhta labored.

Like my father, Adolph at all times believed I may do greater than I ever thought I may. Not eager to disappoint him, I simply did what he steered I do, she defined.

Along with his encouragement, Luhta was quickly flying Powder Puff Derby races—an all-women coast-to-coast race—together with her greatest buddy and co-pilot, Patricia Collier. Collectively, they flew in 10 Powder Puff races, together with one when Luhta was seven months pregnant.

The Lake County Telegraph carried the duvet story that Connie Luhta entered a cross-country Powder Puff Derby whereas seven months pregnant. (Photograph by Brenda Cain,

I had full approval from my obstetrician who was additionally a pilot. He stated he trusted me to fly a race greater than he would belief me on a industrial flight as a result of if one thing occurred he knew I’d land and get to a hospital. His solely caveat was that I would wish oxygen if I flew above 5,000 ft, she defined.

Pat and I wore matching maternity garments in that race. We thought it was a hoax.

To lighten the burden of the aircraft in a race, Luhta and Collier bought 4 paper attire from the Scott Paper Firm, which made a line of paper clothes as a publicity gimmick.

We had been at all times in search of methods to lighten the aircraft so we may fly sooner and we thought the paper attire would actually do the trick. The issue was that it received sizzling within the cockpit and after we had been sweating, the attire began to stay to the seat, which brought about an entire different downside after we landed. We needed to wriggle out of them and alter into completely different garments earlier than we may get off the aircraft and meet the press.

The Scott Paper Firm produced a line of paper clothes as a publicity gimmick. Connie Luhta and co-pilot Pat Collier purchased the attire to put on whereas flying to avoid wasting weight within the aircraft. Sadly, the attire melted into the aircraft’s seat because the pilots sweat, inflicting an embarrassing scenario upon touchdown. Connie donated the surviving costume to the Worldwide Girls’s Air and Area Museum. (photograph by Brenda Cain,

Luhta stated their greatest end was third, which wasn’t too dangerous since most derbies had 50 to 100 groups in them. I nonetheless have that trophy in right here someplace.

Her father was so proud, he insisted that reporters overlaying her races insert her maiden title into the articles so mates in Northeast Ohio would know who she was.

However Luhta wasn’t content material to simply cross the nation. She additionally flew a number of intercontinental races referred to as Angel Derbys.

I received to see a lot of the nation and the world that I would by no means have seen due to flying within the races as a result of they’d land us in so many attention-grabbing locations, she stated.

However Luhta wasn’t simply profitable within the air.

She is the longest-serving trustee in Harmony Township historical past, together with a couple of years as chairman — having held her seat for 28 years earlier than resigning as a result of she thought residents would possibly maintain my age towards me if I ran up for one more interval. Do you assume 88 is just too outdated?

As well as, Luhta, now 92, served as a trustee of the now-defunct Northeastern Ohio Basic Hospital in Madison.

Luhta was instrumental in bringing the Worldwide Girls’s Air and Area Museum to Burke Lakefront Airport in 1996.

For years, Luhta drove from her house in Harmony to Centerville, Ohio, to volunteer as a tour information and provides displays when the museum was housed within the house of Asahel Wright, the great-uncle of the Wright Brothers. As a result of the area was so tight, Luhta looked for a greater location that might accommodate the museum’s reveals, and lobbied Cleveland’s Metropolis Council and the airport board for area within the foyer and concourse. She served on the museum’s board for greater than a decade.

For her achievements on the air, and on behalf of the museum, final September Luhta was honored together with her first Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Ohio Senior Residents Corridor of Fame in 2016, the place her solely want was to be photographed with co-inductees , Annie Glenn.

She nonetheless owns the runway, though the airport is presently categorized as uncontrolled, which means nobody is manning the radio anymore to information pilots to the bottom. Pilots take off and land at will. The 2 hangers nonetheless maintain 10 plane for tenants, who every have their very own keys to entry the hangers and the workplace.

Connie Luhta stands in entrance of one of many two hangers on the small runway. She nonetheless had 10 tenants who retailer their plane at Harmony Airpark. (photograph by Brenda Cain,

I get sufficient earnings to pay the property taxes and that is it, she defined wistfully. That is why issues look just a little shabby right here.

Luhta has no plans to retire or groom a successor. Neither her daughter nor stepchildren are serious about taking on. She stated the land that has seen 1000’s of planes come and go through the years is prone to turn out to be a housing growth at some point.

Harmony Airpark is a 2,200-foot airstrip constructed on 70 acres of a former dairy farm. Adolph Luhta constructed the air park within the mid-Fifties. It’s nonetheless run as we speak by Connie who used to provide flying classes there for years. (photograph by Brenda Cain,

She nonetheless longs for her planes, which had been offered when she suffered from most cancers. Her favourite planes to fly had been a Piper Cherokee low-wing and a Piper Aztec. She winks when she says I feel I may move my medical and get my license again.

I simply really feel so fortunate, she stated as she sauntered throughout the snow in the direction of the ring. I’ve had a very good life.

Now, when requested what her favourite reminiscence was, Luhta simply smiles and says simply flying, after all.

I simply cherished being up within the air. There’s nothing fairly as peaceable as flying over the countryside. I bear in mind wanting down at some point and realizing that nothing completely nothing mattered if it may very well be so small from the air. It has given me a variety of peace through the years.