Able, Mary Nees (1927–1988)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: August 1, 2017

Mary Nees Able, pilot and founder of Able Aviation, the daughter of Gordon S. and Corinne (Gary) Nees, was born on August 23, 1927, in Bremond, Texas. She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, Texas Tech in Lubbock, and the University of Houston. On October 15, 1945, she married Conover Harris Able; the couple had two children. Mrs. Able first began flying as an activity to share with her husband. She later became the chief flight instructor and senior pilot of a local flight school, and subsequently founded her own flight school. She also became an examiner and safety counselor for the Federal Aviation Administration. She founded M. Able Aviation Company at Andrau Airpark and was later involved in charter operations and aircraft sales. She received numerous aviation achievement awards and was a participant in Powder Puff derbies, an Angel derby, and numerous rallies. She was also the fifth woman in the world to hold a Lear-jet flight rating. Mary Able held a number of offices-including vice governor, international secretary, and member of the board of directors (two terms)-in the Ninety-Nines, Incorporated, an organization of woman pilots. She also belonged to the Women's Airline Transport Pilots Association. She served on the Women's Committee on Aviation in Washington, D.C., and later on the Citizens' Committee on Aviation (also in Washington). Her flying career ended when she became ill in July 1981; she eventually had open-heart surgery at the Texas Heart Institute to replace a faulty mitral valve. She later had open-heart surgery again. She died on August 18, 1988.

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Houston Post, August 20, 1988. Who Houston (Houston: Who Houston, Inc., 1980).

  • Women
  • Aviation and Aerospace
Time Periods:
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Able, Mary Nees,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

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November 1, 1994
August 1, 2017

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