Debbie Travis King is the only woman in the world since 1943 authorized to fly the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which she pilots aboard the Commemorative Air Force's FIFI, the only airworthy B-29 left.
She will be the keynote speaker for the WomenVenture Power Lunch at AirVenture on Wednesday (July 30) at 11:30 a.m., at Theater in the Woods.
The daughter of an American Airlines pilot, she said a career in aviation came naturally. The Dallas native grew up around airplanes and was always working on them with her father.
"I was always in aircraft and never knew a life without it," she said.
Travis King began earning her flight certificates in high school and finished them in college at Texas A&M University. She earned her CFI and CFII directly after and later earned her jet ratings and Air Transport Pilot certificate. She flew corporate jets as an on-demand charter pilot, and now tours with the CAF B-29.
The freedom from everything on the ground drives her love of flying, as well as how it's black and white – and unforgiving. The rules and boundaries of the aviation industry fit with her personality, she said.
She pilots the CAF's B-24 Liberator Diamond Lil as well as its B-29, and flies the Falcon 20, 50, 900, 900B and 900EX jets among many other aircraft. At 45 years-old, Travis King has at least 3,600 flight hours under her wings.
She said the Superfortress is her favorite to fly because of its historical significance.
"It's not very often one single aircraft changes the course of history," Travis King said. "And, the fact that two women were incorporated and necessary for that change."
As a woman in what she described as historically, exclusively "man's territory" – besides the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II – she said a lot of pressure and attention comes with being the only female today flying the B-29.
"It takes a strong personality and thick skin to be able to withstand the credulation that you have to go through and the speak you have to listen to," she said. "I'm one of those people that you can't keep me down."
However the field is changing with more and more women finding their passion in aviation. Though it's a slow change, she said, Travis King is a prime example of how the field is becoming more inclusive to women.
She said she's excited to speak to those women at WomenVenture and share for the first time why she does what she does.
"I've never really fully explained why I do what I do and what my inspirations are," she said, adding she also wants to kindly explain how it's not exactly easy for women in the field.
"I can't say it is easy," Travis King said. "These are the things you're going to have to buckle up for… and we can do it."
Having gone to AirVenture since the 1990s, she said every time it's just like coming home.