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First Name: Barbara

Last Name: Rainey

Birthplace: Bethesda, MD, USA

Gender: Female

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: Bethesda, MD
Middle Name: Ann

Maiden Name: Allen

Date of Birth: 20 August 1948

Date of Death: 13 July 1982

Rank or Rate: Lieutenant Commander

Years Served:
Barbara Allen Rainey


Barbara Allen Rainey

Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy Reserve
First Woman Naval Aviator


Barbara Allen was born on 20 August 1948 at Bethesda, MD, the daughter of a career Naval Officer. She became an outstanding athlete at Long Beach City College, CA, and later at Whittier College.

In 1970, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and was immediately sent to Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI, where she was commissioned an Ensign in December 1970. Seeking a greater challenge, she applied for aviation training, and at her graduation from flight school at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, TX, on 22 February 1974, she became the first female aviator in U.S. Navy history.

She married John C. Rainey, who she had met in flight school, and in November 1977, resigned her Regular Navy commission when she became pregnant with her first daughter. Remaining active in the Navy Reserve, and while pregnant with their second daughter, she qualified to fly the DC-6. When the Navy experienced a shortage of flight instructors in 1981, she accepted a recall to active duty as a Flight Instructor, and was stationed at Whiting Field Naval Air Station to Squadron VT-3.

On 13 July 1982, she and a student, Ensign Donald Bruce Knowlton, were killed in the crash of a T-34C Turbo-Mentor trainer aircraft while practicing touch and go landings at Middleton Field near Evergreen, AL. Neither flyer had time to bail out of the dual-seat aircraft and both were killed on impact. 

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Commander Barbara Allen Rainey died on 13 July 1982. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2982   Created by: MHOH




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