Bea on Columbia
It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Jerri Truhill at a Hospice in Irving, TX on 11/18/2013.
Jerri T. was first exposed to flying at the age of 4, when she sat in the cockpit of an airplane that flew her father to a business meeting in Texas. The bug bit, bit hard and never let go - and she let her father know she loved flying. However, her father's advice was reflective of the era: "Work hard, do well in school and you can grow up to be an air hostess and fly all the time". Jerri, of course, protested saying she wanted to be a PILOT! Her father did his best to explain the facts of life in that era, "Honey, girls just don't fly airplanes, that's MENS work".
Well, if you know Jerri, standards of an era like that are a minor inconvenience, at best. When she was 15, she began taking flying lessons after school without the knowledge of her parents. She was determined and wasn't about to let antiquated thinking deter her. Unfortunately she was caught - her Mother was APPALLED! And Jeri was sent off to a Catholic school in San Antonio It never diminished her desire though, nor changed her mind. It was simply a speed bump in the airway of life and pretty soon she would be past that bump.
By 1960 she had proved her point - if Jerri makes up her mind to do something, there isn't anything that will keep her from her goal. She was now one of the county's most experienced pilots. Based out of Dallas, Texas, she was in partnership with one of the greatest pilots she ever met, Joe Truhill (who she would eventually wed). They flew North American B-25's, the venerable twin-engine bomber from WWII and Korea, the same planes used by Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders to bomb Tokyo in 1942. They flew them under contract to Texas Instruments, Incorporated, developing the Terrain Following Radar (TFR) and "smart" bombs that were later known for their great job in the Gulf War. Harrowing and VERY dangerous flying, they would launch at night due to the absolute secrecy of the missions and fly out over the Gulf of Mexico. Then they would drop down right on the deck sometimes churning water with their props, and turn on the TFR and let it go. Those of you that are pilots recognize the inherent dangers of doing this: darkness, no visible horizon reference, down LOW, unable to visually detect relationship to the water or even SEE it, and trusting a new, untried system with your life at speeds in excess of 180 knots. It was VERY top-secret stuff, and scary!
Jerri T. also participated in numerous Air Races and has a ton of trophies to prove it! She proceeded to Albuquerque, NM on April 2, 1961 where she met her roommate and new friend, Bea Steadman. After Jerrie Cobb completed her testing, Bea and Jerri T. came along prior to the selection of the next 22. Needless to say, she excelled as well as Bea and Jerrie Cobb, and became one of the Mercury 13 only to be, as she says, "Scuppered by NASA", never being selected for further training.
Modeling the Lycra suit
Jerri T. returned to her business with Joe and Texas Instruments, and they also purchased some surplus P-51 Mustang (WWII Fighters). She became a model for a new Lycra flight suit, and flew around the Country modeling in her pink P-51.
In addition to her flying career, Jerri T. also served as Vice President for two companies: Air Freighters International and Air Services, Inc. Air Freighters International flew freight into South America and brought back the finished products, with a fleet of 12 DC 6s and 4 YS-11s. Air Services, Inc. was a test pilot and plane company that did all the flight testing for Texas Instruments.
By the way, a true testament to this lady's fortitude and skills, came to light when her partner Joe Truhill was arrested on politically trumped up charges in South America. Although everyone knew and agreed the charges were bogus, and a vehicle for a local despot to obtain their airplane, the State Department never really would help out. Think that would stop Jerri? Not a chance. She participated in the organization of a group of people who went down and shall we say "secured his release". Stuff that would make a GREAT movie, and a person I'm so proud to know. Joe has written a book on his experiences - it can be purchased on this site.
Dana's Web Site