Penny Rafferty-Hamilton, PhD

Inductee Name

Penny Rafferty-Hamilton, PhD

Place of Birth


Date of Birth


Year Inducted



STEM / Aviation


Butler/Grimes Family



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To View Penny Hamilton “Penny the Pilot” life story video, produced by Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and aired on Rocky Mountain PBS, February 15, 2018,
click here

Penny Hamilton has been a general aviation pilot for 23 years, marking her as one of a select group of women in her field. Hamilton has worked for decades to encourage women to choose aviation as a career and break down the barriers that keep women from taking to the skies. Hamilton has a B.A. from Columbia College and a Masters and Ph.D. in Community and Human Resources from University of Nebraska, and she came to Granby, Colorado in 1989, where her love of aviation and her passion for community met to create solid, enduring partnerships.

Hamilton co-holds with her husband a World Aviation Speed Record, set October 22, 1991, awarded by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and the National Aeronautic Association. In 1994, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) named a new holding intersection west of Corona Pass at an altitude of 15,500 feet above sea level after her as a part of the U.S. aeronautical system. In 2011, she was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2013, she was honored in the living memorial to aviation history and aerospace, the Amelia Earhart International Forest of Friendship, in Atchison, Kansas, for her contributions to aviation education and research.

Hamilton is the director of the Teaching Women to Fly Research Project, which is dedicated to bringing more women into aviation, and has written two books on flight instruction directed at women. In 2012, she earned the National Association of State Aviation Officials National Journalism Award. Hamilton also directs the Colorado Airport History Preservation Project.

For more than 25 years, Hamilton has been teaching preschoolers and elementary children about the history of women in aviation with a program called “Penny the Pilot.” For this contribution to aviation history and preservation, the FAA Central Region bestowed on Hamilton its Champion of Aviation Education Award and ABC-TV in Denver recognized her with its Everyday Hero award in 2009. Encouraging women to enter the STEM fields is a high priority for Hamilton, to prepare future generations for the exciting challenges ahead and above.

As a long-time business leader and volunteer in Granby, Hamilton earned the Greater Granby Area Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award. She has written two local history books on Granby and is a founding member of Grand County Business & Economic Development Association and Friends of Granby Airport.

In Her Words

Colorado Women's Hall of Fame

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