Mary Feik, an aircraft engineer and pilot, colonel in the Civil Air Patrol, aircraft mechanic, and restorer of historic and classical airplanes, died June 10 at her home in Annapolis, Maryland. She was 92.
The cause was complications from cancer, said a daughter, Robin Vest.
Feik’s father ran an auto repair shop near their home in Upstate New York, and, as a teenager, she learned how to weld, rivet and overhaul automobile engines. After high school graduation, she wanted to study engineering at the University of Buffalo but was told when she applied that “we don’t take women here.”
Instead she learned and later taught aircraft maintenance and mechanics for the Army Air Forces during World War II at what was then Wright Field in Ohio. She learned how to fly airplanes at Wright — fighter, attack, bomber, cargo and training aircraft — and later became part of a traveling aircraft engineer assessment team that traveled about evaluating aircraft for purchase by U.S. Armed Forces.
She came to Washington in 1954 with her husband, Robert Feik, an Air Force civilian research scientist. From 1977 until retiring in 1986, she was a restoration specialist at the Smithsonian Institution’s Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland.
There, she taught techniques of restoring old and historic aircraft and participated in the reproduction of vintage World War I airplanes. Among the aircraft Feik helped restore was the Spad XIII, a World War I French biplane.