Alverna Williams, who lost both legs in an accident as an infant, intends to fly the entire cross-country Powder Puff Derby alone - even though taking a copilot would cut the crushing expenses.
"I know what I am," said Williams, 42, who "walks" on exceptionally strong hands protected by low-heeled shoes. "I have no legs. If someone goes with me, the public will think the other woman did everything.
"By going by myself no one can say I didn't do it. People in this country have been told too many lies about handicapped people, but I won't be one of them."
Williams, a housewife and mother of two adult children, says it will cost her more than $3,500 to take part in the Powder Puff Derby's 30th anniversary commemorative flight from California to Florida July 1-4.
Her search for a sponsor has been unsuccessful. "So far my sponsors are my friends and fellow pilots who've donated what they can," she said. "It's kind of hard to find a sponsor when you don't look like Farrah Fawcett-Majors."
Williams' legs were amputated at the hips after an auto accident when she was a year old. As a child she wore artificial legs but discarded them because they were too rigid.
In 1944, at age 16, she learned to fly an airplane with hand-operated controls. After passing all tests - physical and technical - she was refused a license by federal authorities.
She threatened to take the matter to court and the Civil Air Administration, now the Federal Aviation Administration relented, issuing her the first pilot's license granted a handicapped person.
Three years later, she soloed cross-country.