Join Deputy Director of Publishing Kelli Baker as she shares about Betty Greene, the female missionary pilot during World War II.

Betty Greene: The Female Missionary Pilot 

Betty began her service during World War II when it was unheard of to have women pilots. Following the war, she and three other pilots began an organization to help missionaries worldwide. She broke down barriers for women in aviation while walking in her calling from the Lord.Betty Greene Female Missionary Pilot

Female Pilot

Betty came from humble beginnings. Born in 1920 and raised in Seattle, Elizabeth Everts “Betty” Greene was a twin and the youngest of four children. Her parents were strong believers and raised Betty and her siblings to love the Lord as well. Since the age of seven, Betty wanted to become a pilot. However, the Great Depression prevented her family from affording flight lessons. Thankfully, she was gifted $100 for her sixteenth birthday, which she knew would go toward lessons. In 1936, Betty began pilot lessons and learned to fly. 

World War II

At that time, women were not considered competent enough to be pilots. After Betty dropped out of nursing school, a family friend suggested she become a missionary pilot. Betty joined a Civilian Pilot Training program to begin her journey. Women weren’t allowed to be commercial pilots, but the military was desperate for pilots. She would later join the Women Airforce Service Pilots and use her aviation skills to aid in the war. 

Betty’s dream of becoming a missionary pilot was placed on hold, but she knew this was right where God called her. Soon after graduating from the women’s pilot program, Betty flew parts from the manufacturers to departure posts for overseas missions. She was also given the opportunity to fly at high altitudes for research purposes. Betty wasn’t just a pilot; she was also a writer. While she served in WWII, Betty wrote in an article, ‘I am eagerly awaiting the time when God will use my flying to take the glorious gospel of our blessed God to those who are without Christ.’

Missionary Pilot

Betty described how her faith kept her during her flights.

“Sitting up there alone in the dark, I watched the colored lights of the field off to one side, listened to some Mexican band music seep through my earphones, saw the Pleiades periodically come into view as I circled, and all the while had a throbbing song in my heart as part of Psalm 42:8 kept running through my mind: ‘… in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.’” 

Several Christian pilots noticed Betty’s article in the magazine. After the war ended, they invited her to join them in founding the Christian Airman’s Missionary Service, later named “Mission Aviation Fellowship” (MAF). Despite being run by mostly men, Betty became the organization’s first pilot.Betty Greene: Female Missionary Pilot

MAF was founded to provide supplies to remote areas where otherwise would take weeks to get supplies. Through their missionary work, they have provided air transportation and medical and ambulance assistance. The organization also assisted countries that have experienced natural disasters and fallout from political uprisings.

So What? 

MAF is still running today and operates 135 aircraft in 33 countries to assist those in need. That’s what loving our neighbors looks like. Betty led the way for women in aviation. She dedicated her life to serving our country and then spent the rest of her life flying thousands of miles providing assistance. 

She attributes her success with MAF to her time in the military. “The best flight training the world had to offer women, which Uncle Sam paid me to take, was not unworthy preparation for a would-be missionary servant of Christ.” Her time in the military prepared her for where the Lord intended to use her.

Along the way, she touched many lives and hearts. 

Closing Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Betty’s life and women like her who fearlessly risked their lives to serve you. May the women who read her story be inspired to faithfully and boldly walk out their faith where you’ve called them. 

Notes and Resources

  1. Read this post to learn why we care about Christian women in military history.
  2. Read all of our Women of the Word Wednesday posts here.
  6. Benge, J. (1999). Betty Greene: Wings to Serve. YWAM Publishing.