Used by permission from the Arizona Historical Society
There were no other women pilots in Arizona when Ruth Reinhold began flying in 1933, at least not that she remembered. She built an active career as a pilot beginning in the early days when “the roads were only paved out to 16th Street, and the airport was a little ways out of town.”
Although born in Boston, Ruth was living in Los Angeles when she met her first husband, Louis Chalmers of Phoenix, and moved to that city in the late 1920s. While living in Los Angeles, a friend’s son was taking flying lessons and suggested she take a few, which she did. Ruth continued to take lessons when she moved to Phoenix.
Paul Odneal, operator of Copper Clad Airways, taught her to fly at Sky Harbor in exchange for running his office. After Odneal’s death in 1936, she worked with Cary Knier, Sky Harbor’s manager, until 1946. In her early pilot days, Mrs. Reinhold flew charter service, sold airplanes and was an instructor in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, just prior to World War II.
Appropriately, Ruth met her second husband, Robert Reinhold, at the Sky Harbor Airport. Together they operated an airplane sales and service and charter service in Arizona for a number of years. She never had a flying accident “worth getting excited about,” she claimed.
Ruth Reinhold did many things in aviation, from barnstorming to teaching pilots to fly four-engine bombers during World War II, but she probably was best known for being Barry Goldwater’s pilot for 20 years. Just before World War II, Barry Goldwater went to Ruth Reinhold for aid in upgrading his license to commercial. Mrs. Reinhold later taught other members of his family to fly, so when in 1958, Barry Goldwater and his brother, Bob, wanted a full-time professional pilot, Ruth was a natural choice.
When Senator Barry Goldwater entered the national political scene, Ruth Reinhold became his pilot as he campaigned in and out of state. The arrangement continued long after his election.
In 1969 she was presented the Amelia Earhart Award by the OX-5 Club (pilots of the World War I planes powered by Curtiss OX-5 engines) for 35 years of dedication to aviation. She served on the old State Board of Aeronautics before it became part of the Highway Commission and was the first woman to have served as a board member.
Ruth Reinhold wrote a history of Arizona aviation entitled Sky Pioneering: Arizona in Aviation History, published in 1982 by the University of Arizona Press.
She died in 1985 at the age of 83 after doing a magnificent job for aviation in the state. As she said, “Women can fly as well as men,” a statement she proved over and over in her lifetime.