Pioneering woman chemist and aviator still finds joy in the blue skies of Northeast Ohio: Womens History Month

Pioneering lady chemist and aviator nonetheless finds pleasure within the blue skies of Northeast Ohio: Womens Historical past Month

CONCORD, Ohio For Caroline Naumann Luhta — nicknamed Connie — nothing was ever off limits.

Rising up in Painesville within the Thirties — the one baby of a father who longed for a son — she was showered with presents of baseball bats and gloves and electrical trains. So when she approached her father about attending school at a time when few girls attended, he did not bat a watch and inspired her to pursue a level in chemistry.

I blame the whole lot on my father. No matter I requested him, he agreed. So I realized to do the whole lot, Luhta stated, sitting within the frequent room at Harmony Airpark as she regarded out onto a snowy runway of the small airport she owns. He by no means as soon as stated I could not do one thing as a result of I used to be a woman, so I grew up believing I might.

Luhta put her chemistry diploma to work at Commonplace Oils Analysis Laboratory (SOHIO) in Warrensville Heights from 1952 to 1968, the place she developed assessments for petroleum merchandise and was typically despatched to refineries to show male staff the way to carry out them . She has revealed many papers on her work in business journals.

Paid $15 an hour lower than her male colleagues, she typically demanded reimbursement by ready on the workshop door with heavy tools till one among her courageous colleagues held it open for me. It was enjoyable.

When she was invited to fly with a pal on a small aircraft to Canada, Luchta took sandwiches together with her. At lunchtime, the pilot requested her to fly the aircraft whereas he ate.

Once I stated I did not know the way to fly, he confirmed me the way to hold the aircraft straight and degree, and I quickly requested him if he thought I might study to fly, too, she remembers. He stated in fact, in order quickly as we landed, I signed up for classes. In these days, it was somewhat unusual for girls to fly an airplane.

Luchta realized to fly an airplane on the now-defunct Casement Airport in Painesville and earned her pilot’s license in 1962 on the age of 31, regardless of having realized to fly with out understanding the way to trim an airplane.

The trainer who taught me had a damaged half on his aircraft, so I by no means realized what trim was (used to keep up a relentless pitch — conserving the aircraft straight and lowering the pilots workload). I really needed to get this aircraft to take off and land. I did not know any totally different so I did not complain.

As soon as licensed, Luhta started flying out of Harmony Airpark, the place she met and ultimately — married Adolph Luhta, who constructed the two,200-foot airstrip on 70 acres of an previous dairy farm alongside Harmony-Hambden Highway in 1954 .

The couple have been married for nearly 25 years earlier than his loss of life in 1993. Since then she has run the airpark on her personal.

Connie ran the airline enterprise whereas her husband targeting his building enterprise. When he wasn’t mopping the ground or fueling planes, he was taking flying classes. He additionally saved the books for each firms.

Their daughter, Kathy, grew up enjoying within the airparks workplace whereas Luhta labored.

Like my father, Adolph at all times believed I might do greater than I ever thought I might. Not eager to disappoint him, I did what he steered, she defined.

Together with his encouragement, Luhta was quickly flying Powder Puff Derby races — an all-female coast-to-coast race — together with her greatest pal and co-pilot, Patricia Collier. Collectively they flew in 10 Powder Puff races, together with one when Luhta was seven months pregnant.

The Lake County Telegraph carried a entrance web page report that Connie Luhta participated in a cross-country Powder Puff Derby whereas seven months pregnant. (Picture by Brenda Cain,

I had the complete approval of my obstetrician, who was additionally a pilot. He stated he trusted me to fly in a race greater than he would belief me on a business flight as a result of if one thing occurred, he knew I might land and go to a hospital. His solely caveat was that I had to make use of oxygen if I flew above 5,000 toes, he defined.

Pat and I wore matching maternity garments to this race. We thought it was a hoot.

To lighten the burden of the aircraft in a race, Luhta and Collier purchased 4 paper clothes from the Scott Paper Firm, which made a line of paper garments as a publicity stunt.

We have been at all times searching for methods to lighten the aircraft so we might fly quicker and we thought paper clothes would actually do the trick. The issue was that it was sizzling within the cockpit and after we sweated, the clothes began to stay to the seat, which triggered a complete different drawback after we landed. We needed to get out of them and alter into totally different garments earlier than we might get off the aircraft and meet the press.

The Scott Paper Firm manufactured a line of paper clothes as a publicity stunt. Connie Luhta and co-pilot Pat Collier purchased the clothes they’d put on whereas racing to save lots of weight on the plane. Sadly, the clothes melted on the aircraft seat when the pilots sweated, inflicting an embarrassing touchdown scenario. Connie donated the salvaged costume to the Worldwide Girls’s Air and Area Museum. (photograph by Brenda Cain,

Luchta stated their greatest end was third, which wasn’t too dangerous since most derbies had 50 to 100 groups. I nonetheless have that trophy right here someplace.

Her father was so proud, he insisted that reporters overlaying her matches insert her maiden identify within the articles so her buddies in Northeast Ohio would know who she was.

However Luhta wasn’t content material with crossing the nation. He additionally threw a number of intercontinental races referred to as Angel Derbys.

I used to be seeing a lot of the nation and the world that I would by no means have seen due to the flights to the video games as a result of they’d land us in so many attention-grabbing locations, he stated.

However Luhta wasn’t simply profitable within the air.

She is the longest-serving trustee in Harmony Township historical past, together with a number of years as President — having held the place for 28 years earlier than retiring as a result of she believed residents would possibly maintain my age towards me if I sought one other time period. Suppose 88 is just too previous?

As well as, Luhta, now 92, served as an administrator of the now-defunct Northeastern Ohio Normal Hospital in Madison.

Luhta was instrumental in bringing the Worldwide Womens Air and Area Museum to Burke Lakefront Airport in 1996.

For years, Luhta drove from her residence in Harmony to Centerville, Ohio, to volunteer as a tour information and gave displays when the museum was housed within the residence of Asahel Wright, the Wright Brothers’ uncle. As a result of house was so tight, Luchta regarded for a greater location that would home the museum’s displays and lobbied the Cleveland Metropolis Council and the airports to seek out foyer and convention room house. He served on the museum’s board of administrators for greater than a decade.

For her on-air achievements and on behalf of the museum, Luhta was honored final September together with her first Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Ohio Senior Residents Corridor of Fame in 2016, the place her solely want was to be photographed with co . imported, Annie Glenn.

It nonetheless owns the airstrip, though the air station is presently categorized as uncontrolled, that means nobody has the radio to information pilots on the bottom anymore. Pilots take off and land at will. The 2 hangers accommodate an extra 10 planes for renters, who every have their very own keys to entry the hangers and workplace.

Connie Luhta stands in entrance of one among two hangers on the tiny runway. It nonetheless had 10 tenants who retailer their planes at Harmony Airpark. (photograph by Brenda Cain,

I get sufficient earnings to pay the property taxes and that is about it, he defined sadly. That is why issues appear a bit bleak round right here.

Luchta has no plans to retire or groom a successor. Neither her daughter nor her stepchildren are involved in taking on. He stated it is doable the stretch of land that has seen hundreds of planes come and go over time will in the future turn into a residential growth.

Harmony Airpark is a 2,200-foot runway constructed on 70 acres of a former dairy farm. Adolph Luhta constructed the airpark within the mid-Fifties. It’s nonetheless operated as we speak by Connie, who used to offer flying classes there for years. (photograph by Brenda Cain,

She nonetheless longs for her planes, which have been bought when she suffered from most cancers. Her favourite planes to fly have been a low-wing Piper Cherokee and a Piper Aztec. He winks when he says I feel I might go my medical and get my license again.

I simply really feel so fortunate, she stated as she walked throughout the snowy floor in the direction of the hanger. I had an excellent life.

Now, when requested what her favourite reminiscence was, Luhta simply smiles and says simply flying, in fact.

I simply liked being within the air. There may be nothing fairly as peaceable as flying over the countryside. I keep in mind trying down in the future and realizing that completely nothing was necessary if it could possibly be so small out of skinny air. This has given me lots of peace over time.

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