British Air Transport Auxiliary
Suzanne Humphreys-Ford-de Florez
One evening, when Suzanne Humphreys-Ford sat with her family at dinner, there was a rumble in the sky. She jumped up from the table and raced outside to look. The ten-year-old asked her father about the plane, and realized at that moment she would fly. As her interest in flying persisted, her love for aviation became more evident to her family. Suzanne attended Westover Boarding School in Middlebury, Ct. and by the time she was fifteen there was no force strong enough to keep her away from the Somerset Hills Airport in Basking Ridge, NJ. Her father took her to airports to watch planes and then traveled with her to her lessons.
Suzanne was born on April 2, 1915 in Far Hills New Jersey. She passed away in her Grand View-On-Hudson, NY, home on July 25, 2001 after being ill for a few months. The Humphreys family was renowned for homeopathic medicine. Suzanne's great-grandfather was a doctor and started his own homeopathic business, which is now known as Humphreys Pharmacal, Inc. She lived in a proper household and her family socialized with people such as the Roosevelt's. Her love of horses began at an early age and she could never remember a time that she did not ride. Her family owned horses and she often entered and won many professional horse shows.
Suzanne began flying lessons at sixteen, and soloed in an OXX6 Waco 10 after just three-and-one-quarter-hours of instruction. Not long after, her family urged her to prepare for her debutante ball. With elegance and grace, she entered the social circles. But as stated in the Newark Evening News in 1934: "Seldom do we see Sue Humphrey's name in the social columns. And it's not because Sue is not worthy of mention, but simply because this debutante of last year just isn't interested in social affairs. Wherever there is an aviation affair going on, you can be sure Sue will be there with bells on her wings, for that is the hobby which takes up all her time." Suzanne later took a few aviation courses at NYU. She competed in many air shows and races. Some of the headlines in the early 1930's read: Girl Pilot, 18, Shames Men As Stunter; Girl Flyer, 18, Is Too Busy with Planes to Make Debut; Polo Ponies Unafraid of Humphrey's Plane; Far Hills Society Girl in Air Race. At the age of 21 her interest in aviation was so strong, that her marriage to Frederick Ford lasted less than a year.
After the United States entered World War II in 1941, Suzanne had a burning desire to help the war effort through the use of her aviation skills. At that time women were not allowed in the United States American Air Corps (USAAC) so Suzanne applied to the United Kingdom's Air Transport Auxiliary on February 4, 1942 when she was a flight instructor at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York. In June of 1942, Suzanne entered the war as a ferry pilot for the Royal Air Force. The first unit was comprised of: Louise Shuurman, New York; Dorothy Fury, New Orleans; Virginia Garst, Kansas City; Helen Richey, Pittsburgh; H. Raines, Georgia; and G. Stevenson, Tulsa, Okla. All of the female pilots that flew for the RAF wore a gold embroidered USA on their blue uniforms. When she arrived in England Suzanne had only 400 hours of flight time, but over 335 hours were in complex aircraft over 80 H.P. She also had a seaplane rating at the time she joined the ATA.
Although women were not allowed to fly in combat in WWII, Suzanne had the experience to fly approximately 75 of the planes flown during the War. Her favorite plane was the Spitfire. She claimed you did not fly a spitfire. You wore it. As she entered her final approach to land, Sue, as she was known to the aviation community, would often ascend vertically, spin twice, then land. It was her signature landing. Suzanne and her best friend, Peggy Lennox, were stationed in Northern Ireland and Scotland. She loved Scotland and purchased a motorcycle and a Jaguar to get around on land. She also purchased a horse there to bring back home, and the horse arrived before she did. She left the ATA on October 31, 1945.
Although she did not fly after returning from the war she still made time to socialize at Roosevelt Field and became a flight dispatcher for Pan American World Airways. She became a friend of Louis deFlorez, who ran Roosevelt Field and married his son Peter. They traveled the world together and often entertained in their Snedens Landing home, as they were members of the social register. Suzanne entered her family's business in 1952 and took over as President and CEO in 1954. She assumed the position from her father as the company was nearing bankruptcy. Somehow she was able to keep the business going and it soon was thriving again. Her marriage to Peter ended in 1974 as the company began to struggle again. Suzanne lived alone and kept busy riding horses and getting the company back on its feet. During the time that she operated Humphreys Pharmacal, Inc. she made many business trips throughout Latin and South America as well as England where Humphreys' products are staple items. When Suzanne was in her eighties she was diagnosed as having macular degeneration and her sight gradually became worse and worse. However, this did not even slow her down as she continued running the business, riding horses and gardening until she became ill in her last year of life.
Go to the Top of the Page
Copyright © 2001 US Trade Inc. All rights reserved