Part of the group known as Women Air Service Pilots, or WASPs, which won a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 2010, Erickson first became interested in flying after graduating from the Ricker Classical Institute in her hometown of Houlton, Maine. She won a scholarship to a Civilian Pilot Training Program in Caribou, Maine, soon afterward and graduated in her early 20s.
"I passed! My dad finally agreed to my staying in a boarding house while taking flying lessons ($5.00 a week for room and board at that time)," she wrote as part of a WASP memoir under her maiden name, Patricia Chadwick. "I kept books at the airport to pay for my flying time."
Inspired by a female flight trainer, she joined the ranks of the female aviators and graduated as part of the second WASP class on May 28, 1943. More than 1,000 women ultimately joined the group, whose members flew more than 60 million miles in all types of military aircraft in an effort to free up more men for combat duty.
Assigned to a ferrying division of the Air Transport Command base in Romulus, Mich., Erickson flew B-17s, B-24s, B-25s and other bombers and fighter planes in the military's inventory, her family members said.
"In Romulus, some of the most 'fun' trips were to Cap-de-La-Madeline Primary Flight School in Canada ferrying PT-26 Cornells," Erickson wrote in one of the WASP memoir books. "We took some to the Northwest from the Canadian factory, sometimes going the northern route across Southern Canada, and sometimes going the longer route south via El Paso and up through Oregon. Gee, what trips we did have."
Erickson later married Air Force pilot Carl E. Erickson, and they traveled to Japan and Africa before moving to Winter Park, where they raised their four children. Daughter Ingrid Campbell said her mother loved to paint, garden and, in northern climes, cross-country ski, though her happiest times were rooted in flying.
"She often said that was the happiest time of her life," her daughter said. "My mother was on the cutting edge of aviation. … She lived on the wild side."
Erickson was honored on March 10, 2010, when WASP pilots received Congressional Gold Medals at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol. Only about 300 of the WASP pilots were still alive at that point, but many of them attended. Campbell traveled to Washington to collect a medal on behalf of her mother, who used a walker in her later years, though she had remained in relatively good health until a fall about a week before her death.
She was predeceased by her husband; her sister, Carolyn C. McVickers; a son, Eric Erickson; and a grandson, Jim Higgins. In addition to Campbell, she is survived by her brothers, John H. Chadwick of Augusta, Maine, and James M. Chadwick of San Jose, Calif.; daughter Christina Verlander and son Nils Erickson; and seven grandchildren.
Baldwin Brothers Cremation Society in Winter Park handled arrangements. A service will be held later in Houlton, Maine.
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