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Posts Tagged ‘Aviation

Extraordinary women in aviation

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It’s women’s history month, and as an avid pilot, I’m terrifically impressed with the women I’ve met in the front seats of airplanes of all stripes.  With so many famous male flyers (Yeager, Glenn, Lindbergh, Doolittle, Curtis, the Wright Bros), we lose sight of the fact that women have been there from the beginning.  Here are just a few, off the top of my head:

In 1910, Blanche Stuart Scott was the first woman to fly solo, and later became a test pilot for Martin Aviation.  She was also the second woman (also in 1910) to drive across the U.S., and the first to drive east-to-west (NYC to San Francisco).  She went on to become a Hollywood script writer.  In 1948, Chuck Yeager took her on a ride in a Lockheed TF-80C trainer, making her the first woman to ride a jet.

In 1911, Harriet Quimby became the first woman to earn a pilots license in the U.S., and in 1912 became the first woman to fly the English Channel.  As a side venture (!) she wrote screenplays and seven of her movies were directed by the famed D.W. Griffith.

Katherine Stinson became the 4th woman to earn a U.S. pilots license in 1912, and became the first woman to be licensed to carry the U.S. airmail.  She became one of the first female flight instructors shortly thereafter, and set the aviation speed record in 1917 on a flight from San Diego to San Francisco.

Bessie Coleman was the first African American aviator in 1922. The daughter of sharecroppers, she fell in love with aviation, but no American flight school would give her the time of day, both because of her gender and her race. She taught herself French, and went to France to enroll in a flying school there. Returning to the U.S., she became famous in the barnstorming circuit, but tragically died a the age of 33, in 1926, rehersing for a show.

Beryl Markham was one of the first African bush pilots in the 1920’s and 30’s, and in 1936 became the first person — male or female — to fly the Atlantic from east to west. (Lindbergh flew from west to east. Markham’s passage was the more difficult due to prevailing eastbound winds.)

Jackie Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier in 1953.  She’d founded the WASPs in World War II, and still holds more aviation records than any other pilot, male or female.  She was the first woman to pilot a bomber across the Atlantic (in WW-2) and after the war, was commissioned a Colonel in the newly formed U.S. Air Force reserves, making her the first woman pilot in the USAF.

Jackie Cochran’s co-founder was the somewhat lesser known Nancy Harkness Love, who founded the Women’s Auxillary Ferrying Squadron (actually, several squadrons) that was eventually merged with Cochran’s group to form the WASPs.  Love was certified on 19 different military aircraft, including the P-51 Mustang.  She was eventually commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves.

So, there’s our history lesson for today, folks.




Written by johnkilpatrick

March 13, 2018 at 11:04 am

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