American aviator Wally Funk built her career as a pioneer for women in aviation. Her career has led to a net worth in the millions. Some sources estimate that her net worth is as high as $5 million.
On July 20, Funk, 82, made history and became the oldest person to travel to the edge of space as a crewmember of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft. Funk joined Bezos, his brother Mark, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen on the 11-minute suborbital flight.
Wally Funk was part of the Mercury 13 program in the 1960s.
The historic flight is a dream come true for Funk, who has been waiting to go to space since the 1960s when she was part of the Mercury 13 Women in Space Program. Although she completed the training, the program was canceled, and neither Funk nor any of the other 12 women got to go to space.
Funk was the youngest woman to participate in the Mercury 13 program. She excelled and sometimes scored better than famed astronaut John Glenn. After the program got canceled, Funk reached out to NASA on at least three different occasions, but she was denied because she didn’t have test pilot experience or a degree in engineering.
“I said I want to become an astronaut, but nobody would take me,” Funk said in a video posted on Bezos’s Instagram account. “I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up. Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They said, "Wally, you’re a girl. You can’t do that." I said, "Guess what? It doesn’t matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it.”
Wally Funk has always loved flying.
Growing up in Taos, N.M., Funk has been passionate about aviation since she was just 7 years old and making planes out of balsa wood. She had her first flying lesson when she was 9 years old.
Funk got her pilot’s license at age 19 and, while in college at Oklahoma State University, she joined the university’s “Flying Aggies” program.
Wally Funk led the way for women in aviation.
As a professional aviator, Funk has accomplished many firsts for women in the field of aviation. She was the first female flight instructor for the U.S. military, the first woman to complete the FAA’s General Aviation Operations Inspector Academy course, the first female FAA field examiner, the first female FAA SWAP specialist, and the first female Air Safety Investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
However, despite her vast flying experience, Funk was turned away from pilot jobs with three different commercial airlines because of her gender. The airlines reportedly wouldn’t hire her because they didn’t have a women’s restroom.
In total, Funk has clocked over 19,600 flying hours, and she has taught over 3,000 people to fly.
“Everything the FAA has, I’ve got a license for,” Funk said.
Who is Wally Funk’s husband?
As Funk was blazing a trail for women in aviation, she never got married.
“I’m married to airplanes,” Funk said in a 2002 interview with The Guardian.