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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Article by Chris McGreal in The Guardian December 4 2010

11455_ae1The riddle of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance has only grown more complex in the 73 years since the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic went missing attempting to fly around the equator.

One theory had it that she crashed into the sea after running out of fuel during her expedition over the Pacific Ocean. Others claimed that Earhart was executed by the Japanese for spying, was pressed into making propaganda broadcasts from Tokyo during the war, or that she secretly returned to the US under an assumed identity.

But now an array of artefacts from the 1930s and bones found on the uninhabited Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro suggest that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, endured lingering deaths as castaways on a desert island and were eventually eaten by crabs.

Researchers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar) found what appears to be a phalanx from a finger and two other bones, one of them from the neck, alongside a host of other clues after two decades and 10 expeditions attempting to solve the mystery.

The suspected finger is being tested for human DNA. It may turn out to be from a turtle – which have similar bones in their flippers.


But the other discoveries lend credence to the theory that Earhart died on the atoll after going missing en route to Howland Island in July 1937 at the age of 41 – she was declared legally dead 18 months later.

They include part of a mirror from a woman’s compact, a zip from a Pennsylvania factory and travel-sized bottles made in New Jersey as well as a pocket knife listed on her aircraft’s inventory, all manufactured in the 1930s.

Alongside the goods are the remains of small fires with bird and fish bones, and empty oyster shells laid out in a row as if to collect water, suggesting someone was trying to survive on the island.

Three years after Earhart disappeared British colonial authorities, who then administered Nikumaroro, found 13 bones from a human skeleton at the site of the latest discoveries. The bones were later assessed to be "more likely female than male" and "more likely white than Polynesian or other Pacific Islander". Those bones have since been lost.

11455_ae3Ric Gillespie, the executive director of Tighar, said the combined evidence points to Earhart dying on Nikumaroro.

"The bottom line is we have this archaeological site on this island where so much other evidence points to the Earhart flight having ended up. We know there was this castaway found there who appears to have been an American woman of the 1930s and there’s only one of those missing out there," he said.

Gillespie said that the condition of some of the discoveries added to the evidence that there were people attempting to survive on the island.

"We could see that the knife had been beaten apart with a blunt object … apparently in order to remove the blades. We can only speculate but if you’re a castaway and you need to make a spear to catch fish, maybe the blades are more useful that way than still attached to the knife," he said.

Gillespie said a member of Earhart’s family had provided a DNA sample for testing if the suspected finger bone turned out to be human.

But he added that the family would prefer a different ending to the Amelia Earhart story.

"A crash at sea, that’s nice and clean and a quick ending. Ending up as a castaway on a waterless atoll, and struggling to survive for a time and failing and ultimately being eaten by crabs is not nearly as pretty. They’re hoping that we’re wrong and I can’t blame them for that," said Gillespie.

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11453_bat6Jean Gardner Batten CBE (15 September 1909 – 22 November 1982) was a New Zealand aviatrix. Born in Rotorua, she became the best-known New Zealander of the 1930s, internationally, by taking a number of record-breaking solo flights across the world.

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In 1929, Gladys O’Donnell was the only licensed woman pilot in Long Beach, California. With just 40 hours of solo flying time, she heedlessly entered the first Women’s Air Derby ever held and won second place. The following year she entered again and won first place.

The story of Lloyd and Gladys O’Donnell and the First Women’s Air Derby of 1929, is about boldly throwing caution to the winds. It is about defiance of the laws of gravity and the excitement sparked as 11282_god2these pioneers of flight rose above ordinary mortals. The hurtled recklessly toward a future they were helping to shape. An absence of rules, regulations and safety measures, along with a lack of knowledge about the perils of the new sport, left the pilot to call the shots. Ignorance was bliss however, the minute they climbed into their planes. The brash display of impulsive monkey shines popped one after another like fireworks. The primary target was to capture fame, while breaking through barriers of speed, altitude, endurance and every other obstacle that might set a record.

It was 1929 . . . the eyes of the world were on pilots. But when women took their turn at the stick, they became instant curiosities . . . and were suddenly big news. The public, hungry for distraction and adventure following the gloom of the stock market crash and a looming depression turned their eyes skyward. This is an account of stubborn, enthusiastic people, fully in charge of their inalienable rights to pursue a thrilling and dangerous endeavour as they joyously reached for the freedom it represented to them.

 11282_god3The history of Lloyd and Gladys O’Donnell, who flew into public view in Long Beach, California in 1928, is a fascinating story. They came from opposite sides of the track., but the hidebound eccentricities of their families gave them a common denominator of discontent. Lloyd, son of a wealthy oil producer, opened a flying school at the local airport, and performed stunts in an Air Circus every Sunday. But when his wife Gladys decided to become part of the act, press notices skyrocketed. The public was dubious about women’s departure from the domestic scene, to invade man’s realm. It seemed they were trying to be men by acting like them. What next? It was all too freakish. With a firm grasp on femininity while achieving status as a pilot, Gladys was dubbed the "flying housewife." There were many pictures taken with her two small children. Much was made of her domestic ability. At the time she was the only licensed woman pilot in Long Beach, California.

When the first Women’s Air Derby was announced in 1929, Gladys had only 40 hours of solo flying time, but quickly signed on as a contestant. The race started in Stanta Monica and concluded in Cleveland, Ohio, taking nine days with eight overnight stops and seven Control stops for refuelling, etc. The book covers a lot of territory and includes 250 pictures.

Each of the women who concluded that historic race, including Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, Phoebe Omlie, Ruth Elder, Blanche Noyes, Bobbi Trout and Gladys O’Donnell, opened doors for all women pilots. It was not just a competition, but a major breakthrough for the spirit and possibility of achievement for women in a so-called man’s field.

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10995_lawRuth Bancroft Law (1887 – 1970) was a pioneer aviatrix during the 1910s. She received her pilot’s license in November 1912. Her brother was the famous parachutist & pioneer movie stuntman Rodman Law (1885-1919).

In 1915 she gave a demonstration of aerobatics at Daytona Beach before a large crowd. She announced that she was going to “loop the loop” for the first time, and proceeded to do so, not once but twice, to the consternation of her husband Charles Oliver.

In spring 1916 she took part in an altitude competition, twice narrowly coming second to male fliers. She was furious, determined to set a record that would stand against men as well as women.

Her greatest feat took place on 19 November 1916, when she smashed the existing cross-country distance flying record of 452 miles set by Victor Carlstrom by flying non-stop from Chicago to New York State, a distance of 590 miles. The next day she flew on to New York City. Flying over Manhattan, her fuel cut out, but she coolly glided to a safe landing on Governors Island and was met by Henry “Hap” Arnold.


She was the toast of the city, President Woodrow Wilson attended a dinner held in her honour on 2 December 1916.

When the USA entered World War I in 1917, she campaigned unsuccessfully for women to be allowed to fly military aircraft. Stung by her rejection, she wrote an article entitled “Let Women Fly!” in the magazine Air Travel, where she argued that success in aviation should prove a woman’s fitness for work in that field. Text from Wikipedia 

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Katherine Stinson (February 14, 1891, in Fort Payne, Alabama– July 8, 1977, in Santa Fe, New Mexico) was an early female flier. She was the fourth woman in the United States to obtain a pilot’s certificate, which she earned on July 24, 1912, at the age of 21 while residing in Pine Bluff, AR. Initially, she planned to get her certificate and use money she earned from exhibition flying to pay for her music lessons. However, she found she liked flying so much that she gave up her piano career and decided to become an aviatrix. She took her flying lessons from the well-known aviator Max Lille, who initially refused to teach her because she was female. But she persuaded him to give her a trial lesson and was so good that she flew alone after only four hours of instruction. A year after receiving her certificate, she began exhibition flying. On the exhibition circuit, she was known as the "Flying Schoolgirl."

10949_cs_02After she received her certificate, Stinson and her family moved to San Antonio, Texas, an area with an ideal climate for flying. There, she and her sister Marjorie began giving flying instruction at her family’s aviation school in Texas. On July 18, 1915, Stinson became the first woman to perform a loop, at Cicero Field in Chicago, Illinois, and went on to perform this feat some 500 times without a single accident. She also was one of the first women authorized to carry airmail for the United States. During World War 10949_cs_03I, Stinson flew a Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" and a Curtiss Stinson-Special (a single seat version of the JN aircraft built to her specifications) for fundraising tours for the American Red Cross. During exhibition flights in Canada, Stinson set a Canadian distance and endurance record, and made the second air mail flight in Canada between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.

10949_cs_04Of note is the fact that all of her stunt flying was done in aircraft using the Wright control system which uses two side-mounted levers for pitch and roll, with top mounted controls for throttle and yaw.

The Stinson School closed in 1917, and Katherine became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Europe. There, she contracted influenza, which turned into tuberculosis in 1920, causing her retirement from aviation. In 1928, she married airman Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr., son of the former territorial governor of New Mexico. Although she could no longer fly, she worked as an architect for many years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She died in 1977 at the age of 86.

Stinson’s flying inspired her brothers to form the Stinson Aircraft Company.

A replica of her 1918 Curtiss Stinson-Special is on display at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton.

The second oldest general aviation airport in the United States, Stinson Municipal Airport (KSSF) in San Antonio, Texas, was named in the Stinson family’s honour. A middle school in northwest San Antonio, TX, Katherine Stinson Middle School, was named in her honour. – Text from Wikipedia 

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Bessie Coleman, the daughter of a poor, southern, African American family, became one of the most famous women and African Americans in aviation history. "Brave Bessie" or "Queen Bess," as she became known, faced the double difficulties of racial and gender discrimination in early 20th-century America but overcame such challenges to become the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license. Coleman not only thrilled audiences with her skills as a barnstormer, but she also became a role model for women and African Americans. Her very presence in the air threatened prevailing contemporary stereotypes. She also fought segregation when she could by using her influence as a celebrity to effect change, no matter how small.


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LIFE 21. des 1936 2Aviatrix Lady Heath was arrested then jailed for 28 days for being intoxicated at London’s busy Piccadilly Circus subway station when she could not raise the 20 pound good behaviour guarantee the court demanded. When she was still actively flying, Lady Heath, who is now Mrs George Williams, often took a flask of whiskey along to keep herself warm (see picture).
But Mrs George Williams  has done no important flying since 1929 when she barely escaped death after crashing through the roof of a Cleveland factory.

From the American magazine LIFE – 21. December 1936


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