with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Honoring Women Aviators in National Women’s History Week

Brent and I are fans of Cut and Paste Aviation and I was really excited to find that they are honoring National Women’s History Month with highlights of amazing and outrageous women in aviation history. Some highlights include:

Katherine Stinson (1893-1977): Katherine Stinson won a balloon trip in a raffle at age 16 and decided to become a stunt pilot soon after as a way to make money. She became the fourth woman to receive a pilots license soon after, and became one of the most daring female stunt fliers of her time. In 1913, she and her mother founded Stinson Aviation Company and a couple years later started a flying school in Texas. She went on to become the first woman to carry the mail by air and is often credited as the first woman to perform the loop the loop.

In November 1915 she made eighty consecutive loops flying upside down for thirty seconds and executing a series of spins. In December, determined to out-do a male pilot, Art Smith, who had looped the loop at night, she added magnesium flares to her aircraft and traced the letters CAL in the night sky, then looped, flew upside down, and spiralled to 100 feet of the ground, trailing showers of sparks. For the first six months of 1917, she toured China and Japan, where no woman had flown before.

Marga von Etzdorf (1907-1933): Marga von Etzdorfwas born into an aristocratic military family and decided at 19 that flying would be her life. She got a job as a copilot of a “Junkers F-13 with Lufthansa” flying a commercial route regularly from Berlin to Basel, Switzerland, via Stuttgart. Eventually, she bought her own plane and learned aerobatics, flying throughout Europe, then further including a famous 11-day solo flight from Berlin to Tokyo in 1931.

Juanita Pritchard Bailey: Called “The Flying Beautician”, Juanita Pritchard Bailey was the owner of a beauty salon in Clairton, Pennsylvania, and an active pilot, including flying coastal and patrol missions with the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. She was the first woman to solo from the US to Panama and became a ferry pilot for aircraft companies, flying all over North America from Alaska to Central and South America. Still alive and kicking, according to Cut and Paste Aviation, “she has logged over 6000 hours during her distinguished flying career.” Wow!

Helen Richey: Helen Richey has a long record of firsts. First soloed in 1930, followed two years later as a record holder for women as she and Frances Marsalis stayed in the air for almost ten days. First to win the first National Air Meet for Women in Dayton in 1934. First commercial pilot for Greensburg, PA’s Dick Coulter’s Central Airlines in 1934 winning out over 8 men. She set two world records for light planes in 1936. She was the first woman to be licensed as a flight instructor by the CAA.

Ruth Rowland Nichols (1901-1960): Ruth Rowland Nichols began flying in 1919 and became the first woman to licensed for a “flying boat” or sea plane. She was rated to fly just about anything including “the dirigible, glider, autogiro, landplane, seaplane, amphibian, monoplanes, biplanes, tri-planes, twin and four engine transports and supersonic jets.”

She was the first three women to earn an Air Transport Pilot rating in 1929 and the only woman to hold three different world records simultaneously: women’s altitude (28,748 feet), speed (210.5 mph), and non-stop, Oakland to Louisville (19 hrs. 16 min.) between 1931 and 1932.

After injuring her back in an attempt to fly across the Atlantic and crashing, she flew the rest of her life with a steel back brace, and the injury inspired her to start the “Relief Wings, a flying ambulance for mercy missions” which became part of the Civil Air Patrol.

Women, be inspired by these great representatives of the fairer sex who even inspired men to fly better and changed the face of aviation today.

Simultaneously published on Brent VanFossen – Aerospace Engineer with a View

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