SANTIAGO – Margot Duhalde, who flew Spitfires in World War II as Chile’s first female fighter pilot, has died at the age of 97. The cause of her death was not given.
Duhalde started flying when she was 16 years old, gaining her pilot’s license two years later (in 1938), just before the outbreak of World War Two. Years later, she travelled to Europe to volunteer for the Free French Forces but ended up enlisting with the British to fight Nazis.
Despite speaking no English, she spent the war transporting planes into combat zones in continental Europe.
Later she became Chile’s first female air traffic controller.
A government statement on Monday said: “We are grateful for the huge contribution she made to Chilean aviation and recognise the courage she had to fulfil her life’s dream, breaking stereotypes and showing the way to other women.”
Last year Mrs Duhalde told a Chilean TV station “the men were convinced they were the only ones who could do things”.
“They always looked down on us women, it is only recently that they are beginning to realise we are equal and actually better than them.”
She returned to Chile in 1947 where she lived the rest of her life, marrying three times and working as a commercial pilot, instructor and finally as an air traffic controller, retiring at the age of 81.
For her service in the war, Duhalde was decorated by Britain, Chile and France, which inducted her into the Legion of Honor.
Duhalde last flew a plane in 2007.