June 20, 2024

Wally Funk, an esteemed aviator and astronaut from Grapevine, was honored with induction into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame last month, as announced in a recent news release.

Funk was part of the 2024 induction class, which was officially enshrined in the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame on April 19. Joining her were notable figures including Colleen Barrett, the former president of Southwest Airlines; R. Walter Cunningham, an Apollo 7 astronaut; and Heather Wilson, a former secretary of the Air Force.

Wally Funk’s journey in aviation began at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she earned her pilot’s license. In 1961, she volunteered for the First Lady Astronaut Trainees program, later known as “Mercury 13.” In a historic achievement, Funk became the only member of the Mercury 13 to go to space, doing so at the age of 82 aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, making her the oldest woman to have ever flown in space.

“I never let anything stop me,” Funk remarked in the release.

Despite earning her airline transport pilot rating in 1968, Funk faced gender-based rejections from commercial airlines. Nevertheless, she broke barriers by becoming the first civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Over her illustrious career, she has logged more than 30,000 flight hours, trained over 3,000 pilots, and helped countless others achieve advanced flight ratings.

Funk also made significant strides in aviation safety and regulation. She became the first female inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration and, in 1974, the first female investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, as noted in the release.