Eileen M. Collins
Colonel Eileen M. Collins, USAF (retired), earned a place in history as the first American woman to pilot, and later to command, a space mission. Collins’s love of aviation began as a child in her hometown of Elmira, New York, which hosts the National Soaring Museum. At age twenty, she used money saved from part-time jobs to take flying lessons. In 1978, she was selected as one of the first four women admitted to the Pilot Training Program at Vance Air Force Base, OK. In 1979, she became the first woman flight instructor at Vance. As a C-141 Starlifter transport pilot, Collins participated in the 1983 invasion of Grenada, delivering troops and evacuating medical students. A graduate of the AF Test Pilot School, Collins flew the space shuttle on four missions between 1995 and 2005. Her flight highlights include joint operations on the Russian space station Mir and deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. On her final shuttle flight, she commanded the “Return To Flight” mission after the tragic Columbia accident. She currently serves on various boards and advisory panels, including the National Space Council Advisory Group.