Posts Tagged ‘Aviatrix’


Experienced women pilots, like Lee, were eager to join the WASP, and responded to interview requests by Cochran. Members of the WASP reported to Avenger Field, in wind swept Sweetwater, Texas for an arduous 6-month training program. Lee was accepted into the 4th class, 43 W 4. Hazel Ying Lee was the first Chinese American woman to fly for the United States military.

Although flying under military command, the women pilots of the WASP were classified as civilians. They were paid through the civil service. No military benefits were offered. Even if killed in the line of duty, no military funerals were allowed. The WASPs were often assigned the least desirable missions, such as winter trips in open cockpit airplanes. Commanding officers were reluctant to give women any flying deliveries. It took an order from the head of the Air Transport Command to improve the situation.

Upon graduation, Lee was assigned to the third Ferrying Group at Romulus, Michigan. Their assignment was critical to the war effort; Deliver aircraft, pouring out of converted automobile factories, to points of embarkation, where they would then be shipped to the European and Pacific War fronts. In a letter to her sister, Lee described Romulus as “a 7-day workweek, with little time off.” When asked to describe Lee’s attitude, a fellow member of the WASP summed it up in Lee’s own words, “I’ll take and deliver anything.”

Described by her fellow pilots as “calm and fearless,” Lee had two forced landings. One landing took place in a Kansas wheat field. A farmer, pitchfork in hand, chased her around the plane while shouting to his neighbours that the Japanese had invaded Kansas. Alternately running and ducking under her wing, Lee finally stood her ground. She told the farmer who she was and demanded that he put the pitchfork down. He complied.

Lee was a favourite with just about all of her fellow pilots. She had a great sense of humour and a marvellous sense of mischief. Lee used her lipstick to inscribe Chinese characters on the tail of her plane and the planes of her fellow pilots. One lucky fellow who happened to be a bit on the chubby side, had his plane dubbed (unknown to him) “Fat Ass.”

Lee was in demand when a mission was RON (Remaining Overnight) In a big city or in a small country town, she could always find a Chinese restaurant, supervise the menu, and often cook the food herself. She was a great cook. Fellow WASP pilot Sylvia Dahmes Clayton observed that “Hazel provided me with an opportunity to learn about a different culture at a time when I did not know anything else. She expanded my world and my outlook on life.”

Lee and the others were the first women to pilot fighter aircraft for the United States military.

Text and image found at “Greatest Generation

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Hélène Dutrieu (10 July 1877 – 26 June 1961), was a cycling world champion, stunt cyclist, stunt motorcyclist, automobile racer, stunt driver, pioneer aviator, wartime ambulance driver, and director of a military hospital.

Hélène Dutrieu in her aeroplane, c. 1911.

Hélène Dutrieu was born on 10 July 1877 in Tournai, Belgium, the daughter of a Belgian Army officer. She left school at the age of 14 to earn a living.

Cycling success
Dutrieu became a professional track cyclist racing for the Simpson Lever Chain team. In 1895 she gained the women’s world record for distance cycled in one hour. In 1897 and 1898 she won the women’s speed track cycling world championship in Ostend, Belgium, and earned the nickname "La Flèche Humaine" ("The Human Arrow"). In August 1898 she won the Grand Prix d’Europe (Grand Prix of Europe) and in November of that year she won the Course de 12 Jours (12-day race) in London, England. Leopold II of Belgium awarded Dutrieu the Cross of St André with diamonds in honour of her cycling success. She later began performing in variety shows as a cycling speciality act and in July 1903 she cycled a loop inside a vertical track at the Eldorado in Marseille, France. In September 1903 she appeared at Olympia, London. She became a successful stunt cyclist, a motorcycle stunt rider, an automobile racer and stunt driver.

Achievements in aviation

The Santos-Dumont no.19 aircraft that Dutrieu attempted to fly in 1908.

In 1908 Dutrieu was asked by the Clément Bayard factory, in France, to be the first pilot of its new ultralight aeroplane, the Santos-Dumont-designed no.19 Demoiselle (Young Lady) monoplane. She crashed on take off during her first flight and the aeroplane was wrecked. She later successfully piloted and flew solo in an aeroplane. On 19 April 1910 she reputedly became the first woman pilot to fly with a passenger. On 25 November 1910 Dutrieu became the fourth woman in the world, and the first Belgian woman, licensed as an aeroplane pilot, receiving Aéro-Club de Belgique (Aero Club of Belgium) licence #27. Her appearances at air shows earned her the nickname the "Girl Hawk". There was a minor scandal early in her aviation career when it was revealed to the press that she did not wear a corset while flying. In September 1910 Dutrieu flew non-stop from Ostend to Bruges, Belgium. From 26 September to 1 October she flew, frequently carrying passengers, at the aviation week in Burton-upon-Trent, England. She was the first woman pilot to stay airborne for more than an hour and on 21 December 1910 she became the first winner of the Coupe Femina (Femina Cup) for a non-stop flight of 167 km in 2 hours 35 minutes. In 1911 she regained the Coupe Femina temporarily with a flight of 254 km in 2 hours 58 minutes but that year’s cup was eventually won by Marie Marvingt.

Hélène Dutrieu pilots a Farman seaplane.

In September 1911 Dutrieu travelled to the United States with her Henry Farman type III biplane. She competed for the women’s altitude record and the Rodman-Wanamaker trophy, subsequently won by Matilde Moisant, at the Nassau Boulevard airfield 117316_hd4meeting in Garden City, New York. In the same year Dutrieu beat 14 male pilots to win the Coppa del Re (King’s Cup) in Florence, Italy. In 1912 she reputedly became the first woman to pilot a seaplane. Later the same year she won a prize in competition against four other seaplane pilots, including Réne Caudron, at Ouchy-Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1913 Dutrieu became the first woman aviator awarded membership of the Légion d’honneur (French Legion of Honour).

World War I and afterward
During World War I Dutrieu became an ambulance driver. Général Février put her in charge of the ambulances at Messimi Hospital. She later became the director of Campagne à Val-de Grâce military hospital. After the war she became a journalist. In 1922 she married Pierre Mortier and took French nationality. She later became vice president of the women’s section of the Aéro-Club de France (Aero Club of France). In 1953 she was awarded the Médaille de l’Aéronautique (French Medal for Aeronautics). In 1956 she created the Coupe Hélène Dutrieu-Mortier (Hélène Dutrieu-Mortier Cup) with a prize of 200,000 francs for the French or Belgian woman pilot who made the longest non-stop flight each year.

Text from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Elly Beinhorn-Rosemeyer (30 May 1907 – 28 November 2007) was a German pilot. She was born in Hannover, Germany on 30 May 1907.

117147_eb2In 1928, she attended a lecture by famed aviator Hermann Köhl, who had recently completed a historic East-West Atlantic crossing. This lecture is described as the spark that ignited her interest in aviation.

At just 21 years old, with funds from a small inheritance (against the wishes of her parents) she moved to Spandau in Berlin where she took flying lessons, at Berlin-Staaken airport, under the tutelage of instructor Otto Thomsen. She soon made her solo flight in a small Klemm KL-20. With her money running out, it was suggested that she give aerobatic displays on the weekends. She found this financially rewarding, but personally unsatisfying.

Long-distance flights
Long distance flying was her real passion and in 1931 she seized the opportunity to fly to Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) West Africa on a scientific expedition. On the return journey, engine failure resulted in a crash-landing in the Sahara. With the help of nomadic Tuareg tribesmen, Elly joined a camel caravan to Timbuktu. She subsequently returned to the crash site to recover parts of the plane. Word of her plight reached the French authorities and they sent a military two-seater plane to collect her. In April 1931, fully recovered, she was able to fly herself back to Berlin to a warm reception from the crowds.

117147_eb3Soon after this, she embarked on another flight, her Klemm monoplane developing mechanical problems near Bushire, Persia. She found Moye Stephens, another pilot, in Bushire, who helped her fix the problem on her Klemm. Stephens and travel-adventure writer Richard Halliburton were flying around the world in a Stearman C-3B biplane, they called the Flying Carpet. She accompanied them on part of their flight, including the trip to Mount Everest. She flew on to Bali – and eventually Australia. In the process, she became only the second woman to fly solo from Europe to Australia, after Amy Johnson. The foreword of her book, Flying Girl (1935), was written by Richard Halliburton (whose English publisher, as hers, was Geoffrey Bles); it includes a photo of Moye Stephens repairing her plane. Barbara H. Schultz’ Flying Carpets, Flying Wings – The Biography of Moye Stephens (2011) contains Stephens’ own account of their meeting which was first introduced in Halliburton’s bestselling The Flying Carpet (1932).

117147_eb4Having landed in Darwin, North Australia, she headed down to Sydney, arriving in March 1932. Her plane was dismantled and shipped to New Zealand, then Panama where it was reassembled. There Elly resumed her flight, following the western coast of South America. She was presented with a medal in Peru. An ill-advised trip across the Andes followed. The plane was dismantled once more in Brazil and shipped to Germany. Elly arrived in Berlin in June 1932.

Now famous but in debt to the tune of 15,000 marks or more, she was pleasantly surprised to be awarded the Hindenburg Cup, 10,000 marks and several other monetary awards from the German aeronautical industry which enabled her to continue her career. She also continued to write articles and sell photographs of her travels to raise funds. Free of debt, she took off for Africa using a Heinkel He 71, flying down the east coast, then back up the west coast

The following year, Elly shipped the plane to Panama, then flew through Mexico and California before crossing the United States to Washington DC and Miami. Elly and the plane returned to Germany by ship, arriving in January 1935. She was now a true German heroine.

Text from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Although her career as a pilot lasted a mere 11 months, Harriet Quimby left an indelible mark on aviation history as both the first American woman to become a licensed pilot and the first woman to cross the English Channel.

117053_hq2A gifted journalist with a deep love of the theatre, Harriet Quimby first made a name for herself as a writer at Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly. Primarily a writer of feature articles and stage reviews, Quimby also took photos for the publication of her many journeys around the world. Quimby even found success in the world of cinema. Quimby’s old theater friend, D. W. Griffith, made several of her scripts into films, making Quimby one of the first female screenwriters.

In October of 1910, Quimby met Matilde and John Moisant at an aviation exhibition at the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament. John and his brother, Alfred, ran an aviation school. Since the Wright Brothers did not teach women, Quimby convinced Alfred to teach her and his sister, Matilde, how to fly. Harriet quickly excelled in her new ambition, becoming the first licensed female pilot in the U. S. With her friend, Matilde Moisant, Quimby began touring with the Moisant International Aviators and performing at flying exhibitions. Understanding the power of drama, Quimby created a look for herself which became her trademark – a purple satin flying suit with a hood. With her tall, elegant looks, she instantly caught the public’s imagination. Harriet chronicled her adventures in articles for Leslie’s Weekly, sharing with the public the exhilaration of flying.

117053_hq3Ever seeking new adventures, Quimby set out to become the first woman to cross the English Channel. In March of 1912, Quimby set sail for England with a letter of introduction to Louis Blériot. Quimby managed to convince Blériot to lend her a 50-horsepower monoplane for her attempt. While Blériot agreed to the arrangement, most everyone around her was convinced she would fail. Even her friend and instructor, Gustav Hamel, offered to disguise himself in her purple suit, fly the plane in her place, and then secretly switch places with her on the French shores. But Quimby refused.

On April 16 she departed for France in a plane she had never flown before and a compass she had just learned how to use. Despite poor visibility and fog, Quimby landed 59 minutes later near Hardelot, France. Upon landing, Quimby was greeted with shouts of adulation by a cheering crowd and was hoisted upon the shoulders of local residents. Quimby, however, would not receive the same worldwide acclaim as her male counterpart, Louis Blériot. The Titanic had sunk just days earlier, casting a large shadow over Quimby’s achievement.

Quimby’s notoriety did draw large crowds at public flying exhibitions. On July 16th, 1912 she flew at the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet near Quincy, Massachusetts for the hefty sum of $100,000. In her gleaming new Blériot monoplane, Quimby flew out over Dorchester Bay with the event’s organizer, William A. P. Willard. As they were returning, the plane violently pitched forward, Harriet lost control, and Willard was ejected from his seat. Seconds later, Harriet was also thrown out. Both fell to their deaths in front of the entire crowd. Quimby, who had written about safety precautions in flying, was not wearing a safety belt at the time of the accident.


Harriet left behind a legacy, not just as a pilot, but as a woman ahead of her time. Even though she was not a self-proclaimed suffragette, her independence and sense of adventure inspired many women, and helped to pave the way for other female pilots.

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116791_ea1Elsa Andersson (27 April 1897 Strövelstorp, Sweden – 22 January 1922) was Sweden’s first female aviator and stunt parachutist.

She was the daughter of a farmer in Strövelstorp in the Scanian countryside. Her mother died when she was aged six. Her elder brother left the family and sought a new life in America.

Always showing determination and ambition, she wanted to become more than just a farmer’s wife and so, aged 21, in 1920, she learned to fly, becoming Sweden’s first woman pilot. Her diploma was "no. 203". Not content with that, she went to Germany to learn parachute jumping.

In 1922, Andersson was killed on her third jump in Askersund, Sweden. 116791_ea2Thousands of spectators were gathering below on the ice of the frozen lake Alsen. She had trouble releasing her parachute, which finally unfolded only at a small distance from the treetops and she crashed violently into the ground.

In 1926, the Swedish Aero Club erected a three-metre-high obelisk as a memorial in the place where she was found dead.

Novel and film
In 1996 the Swedish novelist
Jacques Werup adapted her life in his novel Den ofullbordade himlen ("The Imperfect Sky").

In 2001 the novel was the basis for the film by Jan Troell Så vit som en snö (aka As White as a Snow) in which Andersson was played by the actress Amanda Ooms. The film was awarded the Swedish critics’ prize for best Swedish film of the year. The film depicted her as having affairs with both sexes, but it is not clear how accurately this reflected Andersson’s real life. Text from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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11589_aviFrances Wilson Grayson (circa 1890 – December 25, 1927) was an American aviatrix who died flying to Newfoundland just prior to her trip to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Birth and education
She was born as Frances Wilson in Cherokee Village, Arkansas to A.J. Wilson. Her family moved from Arkansas to Indiana and she graduated from Muncie High School in Indiana. She next attended the Chicago Musical College. Her plan was to accompany her brother, who planned to be a professional singer. When her brother died she stopped studying music. She then attended Swarthmore College studying recitation and dramatic arts.

At Swarthmore College, she met John Brady Grayson and they married on September 15, 1914. John Grayson was the postmaster of Warrenton, Virginia and was twenty years older than Frances. They had no children and divorced after nine years.

New York
Frances then moved to New York City where she was a writer for a newspaper. She then became a real estate agent and then became interested in aviation. She was inspired by the Charles Lindbergh flight to Paris in May 1927 and she attempted to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane.


Aviation career
She placed a deposit on the construction of a new Sikorsky amphibian plane (a
Sikorsky S-36) and received financing from Mrs. Aage Ancker, a daughter of the Pittsburgh steel manufacturer Charles H. Sang. On the night of December 23, 1927 she left from Curtis Field in New York for Harbor Grace, Newfoundland. From there she was planning to make her historic transatlantic flight to London, possibly on Christmas day. The plane, known as the Dawn was to be flown by Lieutenant Oskar Omdal of the Norwegian Navy, though Frances may have planned to perform some of the flying herself. The crew included navigator Brice Goldsborough and a radio engineer Frank Koehler. They never reached Newfoundland and their remains were never found. Frances was the fifth woman to fail to achieve the transatlantic flight, which was accomplished by Amelia Earhart as a passenger in 1928.


In 1928, the Ontario Surveyor General named a number of lakes in the northwest of the province to honour aviators who had perished during 1927, mainly in attempting oceanic flights. These include Goldsborough Lake (50.70°N 89.34°W), Grayson Lake (50.88°N 89.43°W) and Omdahl Lake (50.81°N 89.49°W) which are in close proximity to each other in the Wabakimi Provincial Park.

Oskar Omdal (1895 – December 25, 1927) was a Lieutenant and pilot in the Norwegian Navy.

Oskar Omdal was born in Kristiansand, in Vest-Agder county, Norway. Omdal was educated at the Norwegian Naval Flight School (Marinens flygevåpen) in Horten during 1919 and promoted to lieutenant in 1922. In 1923 Omdal and fellow Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen tried to fly from Wainwright, Alaska to Spitsbergen across the North Pole. Amundsen and Omdal’s aircraft was damaged and they abandoned the journey.

Omdal died along with Frances Wilson Grayson and Brice Goldsborough as they were flying to Nova Scotia to prepare to cross the Atlantic Ocean to set the record for the first woman to cross.

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When Willa Brown, a young woman wearing jodspurs, jacket and boots, strode into our news room in 1936, she made such a stunning appearance that all the typewriters, which had been clacking noisily, suddenly went silent. Unlike most first time visitors, she wasn’t at all bewildered. She had a confident bearing and there was a undercurrent of determination in her voice.

11519_avi2`I want to speak to Mr. Enoch Waters,’ she said…. I’m Willa Brown, ‘she informed me, seating herself without being asked." – Enoch Waters, City Editor, Chicago Defender. Like Bessie Coleman years before her, Willa Beatrice Brown exuded a determination to become a top-f1ight aviator and not let racial barriers stand in her way.

She was born on ,January 1906 to Rev. and Mrs. Eric B. Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, and reared in Terre Haute, Indiana. She was educated in Indiana and Illinois, receiving her BA in 1927. She then attended and graduated from Indiana State Teachers College, now known as Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana and MBA (1937) from Northwestern University.

Willa Brown pursued her interest in aviation through the help of Chicago Defender Publisher/Editor Robert Abbott, who had helped Bessie Coleman over a decade earlier. Brown enrolled in the Aeronautical University in Chicago, earning a Master Mechanic certificate in 1935.

She studied with Cornelius Coffey, a certified flight instructor and an expert aviation and engine mechanic, and earned her private pilot’s license on June 22, 1938, passing her exam with a near-perfect score of 96 percent. Brown later married Coffey, and together they established the Coffey School of Aeronautics, where they trained Black pilots throughout the Depression at the Harlem Airport in Chicago, owning several small planes. An activist for racial equality, she exercised her position as president of the Chicago branch of the National Airmen’s Association of America to petition the LT.S. government to integrate African Americans into the LT.S. Army Air Corps, and to include African Americans in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, a government funded aviation training program designed to prepare a reserve supply of civilian pilots who could be called upon in the event of an national emergency.


Brown’s effort met fruition when, in 1939, legislation based on the separate-but-equal policy was adopted by Congress, authorizing African- Americans to be admitted into the civilian flight training program. Brown was awarded contracts to train African American pilots at the Coffey School of Aeronautics in a non-college unit, although the majority of the government contracts were awarded to six Black colleges, including Howard University, Hampton Institute, North Carolina A&T, Delaware State College, West Virginia State College and then Tuskegee Institute (now known as Tuskegee University). In addition to training some of the most celebrated African American pilots of World War II under the civilian program, together Brown and Coffey paved the way for integration of the aviation industry as they trained both Black and White American pilots.

Illustration from www.docstoc.com

Time magazine noted the award of her contract in the September 25, 1939 edition with these words: "One civilian flier who was highly pleased by C.A.A.’s (Civil Aeronautics Authority) announcement was a cream and coffee-skinned Negress of 29. There is small chance that Willa Beatrice Brown will ever fly for the Army or Navy, but as Secretary of the National (Negro) Airmen’s Association and one of the few Negro aviatrixes holding a limited commercial license, she has laboured mightily to whip up interest in flying among Negroes, get them a share in C.A.A.’s training program."

Brown was later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, becoming the first African American officer in the Civil Air Patrol. She was a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Women’s Advisory Board, and by 1943 Brown was the only woman in the United States to concurrently hold a mechanic’s and a commercial pilot’s license, and the presidency of a large aviation corporation, forming, along with another Black female aviatrix, Janet Waterford and others, the National Airmen’s Association of America in 1939. Brown, later in her life, became the first :African American woman to run for Congress ( 1946 as a Republican). Although unsuccessful she tried twice again in 1948 and 1950. She also attempted in the late 1940s, to establish a Chicago- area airport owned and operated by Blacks and made its creation part of her political platform. She taught aeronautics at Westinghouse High School until the 1970s. Willa Beatrice Brown Chappell died in July 1992.

Text from AVstop.com – Aviation Online Magazine

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