Jacqueline Auriol (5 November 1917–11 February 2000)

Jacqueline Auriol devant le Mystère IV, en juillet 1955. L’avion a servi de modèle au collier vendu aux enchères mardi 13 mai 2014 à Genève. [AP Photo/Str – Keystone]
Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet was born 5 November 1917 at Challans, Vendée, France. She was the daughter of Edmund Pierre Victor Douet, a ship builder, and Suzanne Jeanne Chevy. She attended school in Nantes, then studied art at L’École du Louvre, Paris.

26 February 1938, Paul Auriol, the son of Vincent Jules Auriol, who was later the first president of France’s Fourth Republic, married Mlle Douet. They would have two sons. The couple divorced, 12 November 1965, but re-married, 24 Jan 1987.

During World War II, Paul and Jacqueline worked with La Résistance française, fighting against the German invaders and the Vichy government of France.

After taking a flight with Commander Raymond Guillaume, Mme Auriol was determined to learn to fly. She earned a private license in 1948.

Jacqueline Auriol, 1947 (Ministère de la Culture – Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Studio Harcourt)

July 1949, severely injured in crash of a Société de construction aeronavale (SCAN) 30 seaplane (a license-built Grumman G-44A Widgeon), on the Seine at Les Mureauxrequired 14 operation s at the Foch Hospital  to repair the damage to her face, followed by 8 more operations at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in the United States.

In 1950, Jacqueline Auriol qualified as a military pilot. She was then accepted as a test pilot for Société des Avions Marcel Dassault.

While in the United States for continued medical treatment, Mme Auriol trained as a helicopter pilot at the Bell Aircraft Company plant at Buffalo, New York. After only 23 flight hours in a Bell Model 47, she was awarded her helicopter pilot certificate, 23 January 1951. Larry Bell, president of the company, said that she was “the most extraordinary woman in the world. She has met fear head-on and conquered it. She has a complete passion for flying.” She became the eighth member of Whirly-Girls, the international association of women helicopter pilots.

Jacqueline Auriol and instructor Dick Buyers in the cockpit of a Bell Model 47D helicopter, N153B, Buffalo, New York, 23 January 1951. (Whirly-Girls, via Texas Woman’s University/MSS 664.8.4.)

On 12 June 1951, Mme Auriol flew a Goblin-powered de Havilland DH.100 Vampire to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record for speed over a given distance of 100 kilometers (62.14 statute miles), averaging  818.18 km/h (505.39 m.p.h.). ¹ She broke the existing record, 703.38 km/h (437.06 m.p.h.) set 29 December 1949 by Jacqueline Cochran of the United States with a North American Aviation P-51C Mustang. ² For her record flight, Mme Auriol was named Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, presented her with the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy.

Jacqueline Auriol climbs out of the cockpit of a SNCASE SE.530 Mistral, circa 1952 (Paris Match via Getty Images/JARNAUX Maurice 163029626)
Harmon Aviatrix Trophy (NASM)

On 21 December 1952, at Istres, France, Mme Auriol flew a license-built variant of the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.53 fighter bomber—the Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) SE 535 Mistral—to set an FAI World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers Without Payload, at 855,92 km/h (531.84 m.p.h.). ³ The aircraft was equipped with a Hispano-built Rolls-Royce Nene 104 turbojet engine. Mme Auriol won a second Harmon Trophy.

On 31 May, 1955, Mme Auriol set a World Record for Speed Over a 15km/25km (9.3–15.5 statute miles) Straight Course, flying the prototype Dassault Mystère IV N interceptor. Her speed averaged 1 151 km/h (715 m.p.h.). ⁴ Again she broke a speed record set by Jackie Cochran with a prototype Canadair Sabre Mk.3. ⁵ For this flight, she was promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur, 31 October 1956. She was awarded a third Harmon Trophy. Her record-setting Mystère IV N is on display at the Conservatoire l’Air et l’Espace d’Acquitane, Bordeaux Merignac Airport, France.

Dassault Mystère IV N 01 F-ZXRM, right side profile. (© Collection Pyperpote)

Flying a delta-wing Dassault Mirage III C, at Istres, 22 June 1962, Jacqueline Auriol averaged 1 850,2 km/h (1,149.7 m.p.h.) to set an FAI  World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers Without Payload. ⁵

Flying a Dassaut Mirage III C, Jacqueline Auriol set an FAI world speed record, 22 June 1962. (Dassault Aviation)

The following year, 14 June 1963, Mme Auriol flew the reconnaissance version, the Dassault Mirage III R, over a 100 kilometer course at an average speed of 2 038,70 km/h (1,266.79 m.p.h.). This set her fifth FAI speed record. ⁷ She was the first woman to exceed Mach 2.

Jacqueline Auriol flew this Dassault Mirage III R, 307, to an FAI world speed record, 14 June 1963. (Archives Musee BA 102 – Collection Particuliere)
Jacqueline Auriol (1917-2000), aviatrice française. Remise du Record international féminin (14 juin 1963) par Jacques Allez, directeur de l’Aéroclub de France. Paris, janvier 1964.

In 1965, Mme Auriol set two world speed records while flying the Dassault Aviation Mystère-Falcon 20 business jet. On 15 May, she averaged 819,13 km/h (508.98 m.p.h.) over a 2000-kilometer (1,242.7 statute miles) closed circuit, ⁸  and on 10 June, over a 1000-kilometer circuit (621.4 miles), 859,51 km/h (534.08 m.p.h.). ⁹

Jacqueline Auriol steps off the Dassault Aviation Mystère-Falcon 20.

On 28 December 1979, Jacqueline Auriol was promoted to Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, and 13 July 1992, to Grand officier de la Légion d’honneur.

She was awarded the Grand-croix Ordre National du Merite, 14 May 1957.

Mme Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol died at Hotel-de-Ville, Paris, 11 February 2000. Her remains were interred at the cemetery in Ville de Muret, France

Jacqueline Auriol, 1956. (Association Amicale des Essais en Vol/CEV Brétigny)

“Now I know that only life and death are important. When I am in the air, close to both, things finally take on their proper perspective. Nonsense becomes nonsense. The big things stand out, become alive.”

—Jacqueline Auriol

¹ FAI Record File Number 10834

² FAI Record File Numbers 4476 and 12323

³ FAI Record File Number 12462

⁴ FAI Record File Number 9074

⁵ FAI Record File Number 8870

⁶ FAI Record File Number 12391

⁷ FAI Record File Number 12392

⁸ FAI Record File Number  9073

⁹ FAI Record File Number  1351

© 2022, Bryan R. Swopes