8 July 1908: Thérèse Peltier (1873–1926) was the first woman to fly as a passenger aboard an airplane when she accompanied her friend, Ferdinand Léon Delagrange, aboard his Voisin biplane on a 200 meter (218 yards) flight at Milan, Italy.
She was taught to fly by Delagrange and in September 1908 made a solo flight at Turin.
The airplane was the first Voisin airplane, known as the Voisin-Delagrange I. It was built by Apparelles d’Aviation Les Frères Voisin, at Billancourt, France. It was a biplane with its elevator forward in a canard configuration and a “box-kite”-style rear stabilizer. The wings each had a span of 10 meters (32.8 feet) and a chord of 2 meters (6.56 feet). Its gross weight was 1,540 pounds (699 kilograms).
The airplane was powered by a steam-cooled, direct-injected, 493.41 cubic-inch (8.086 liter) Société Antoinette 8V 90° V-8 engine producing 49.2 horsepower at 1,100 r.p.m. The direct-drive engine turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 6 inches (2.286 meters) in a pusher configuration. The Antoinette V-8 weighed 265 pounds (120 kilograms).
The Voisin-Delagrange I had a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).
After her friend, Léon Delagrange, was killed 4 January 1910 when the wing of his Blériot XI failed near Croix d’Hins, Peltier never flew again.
1 July 1912: While flying her new two-place Blériot XI monoplane, at the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts, Harriet Quimby and her passenger, William A. P. Willard, Jr., organizer of the Meet, flew out over the water:
“As the pair returned from circling the Boston Light far out in the bay, the sky had turned a dazzling orange. Five thousand spectators watched as the monoplane approached over the tidal flats, strikingly silhouetted against the blazing sky. Without any warning, the plane’s tail suddenly rose sharply, and Willard was pitched from the plane. The two-passenger Blériot was known for having balance problems, and without Willard in the rear seat, the plane became gravely destabilized.
“For a moment it seemed that Quimby was regaining control of the plane. But then it canted forward sharply again, and this time Quimby herself was thrown out. The crowd watched in horror as the two plunged a thousand feet to their deaths in the harbor. Ironically, the plane righted itself and landed in the shallow water with minimal damage.
“Quimby was 37 years old.”
—excerpt from PBS NOVA article, “America’s First Lady of the Air,” by Peter Tyson
The cause of the accident is unknown and there was much speculation at the time. What is known is that neither Quimby nor Willard were wearing restraints. Also, the Blériot XI was known to be longitudinally unstable. With the nose pitched down the tail plane created more lift, which caused the nose to pitch down even further.
Harriet Quimby was born 11 May 1875 at Arcadia, Michigan. She was the fourth child of William F. Quimby, a farmer, and Ursula M. Cook Quimby. The family moved to California in 1887, initially settling in Arroyo Grande, and then San Francisco. There, she worked as an actress, and then a writer for the San Francisco Call newspaper, and Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly. Quimby also wrote a number of screenplays for early Hollywood movies which were directed by D.W. Griffiths.
Harriet Quimby was the first American woman to become a licensed pilot. After 33 flight lessons over a four-month period at the Moisant Aviation School at Hempstead, Long Island, New York, on 1 August 1911, Harriet Quimby took her flight test and became the first woman to receive a pilot’s license, Number 37, from the Aero Club of America. She was called as “America’s First Lady of the Air.”
Miss Quimby was well-known throughout the United States and Europe, and she wore a “plum colored” satin flying suit. But she was a serious aviator. Just twelve weeks earlier, on 6 April 1912, Harriet Quimby became only the second pilot to fly across the English Channel when she flew a Blériot XI from Dover to Hardelot-Plage, Pas-de-Calais, in 1 hour, 9 minutes. Her only instruments were a hand-held compass and a watch.
Harriet Quimby was buried at the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.
Miss Quimby’s airplane was a tandem seat variant of the Blériot XI single-seat, single-engine monoplane, designed by Raymond Saulnier and built by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. The basic airplane was 24 feet, 11 inches (7.595 meters) long with a wingspan of 27 feet, 11 inches (8.509 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 10 inches (2.692 meters). The wings had a chord of 6 feet (1.829 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 507 pounds (229.9 kilograms).
In its original configuration, the airplane was powered by an air-cooled, 3.774 liter (230.273 cubic inches) R.E.P. two-row, seven-cylinder fan engine (or “semi-radial”) which produced 30 horsepower at 1,500 r.p.m., driving a four-bladed paddle-type propeller. The R.E.P. engine weighed 54 kilograms (119 pounds). This engine was unreliable and was soon replaced by an air-cooled 3.534 liter (215.676 cubic inch) Alessandro Anzani & Co., 60° (some sources state 55°) three-cylinder “fan”-type radial engine (or W-3) and a highly-efficient Hélice Intégrale Chauvière two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller, which had a diameter of 6 feet, 8 inches (2.032 meters). The Anzani W-3 was a direct-drive, right-hand tractor engine which produced 25 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. It was 1.130 meters (3 feet 8.49 inches) long, 1.500 meters (4 feet, 11.01 inches) high, and 0.720 meters (2 feet, 4.35 inches) wide. The engine weighed 66 kilograms (145.5 pounds).
The Blériot XI had a maximum speed of 47 miles per hour (76 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling was (3,280 feet) 1,000 meters.
31 May 1955: Test Pilot Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol flew the Dassault MD.454 Mystère IV N to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 15/25 Kilometer Straight Course at Brétigny-sur-Orge, France.¹ Her average speed of 1,151 kilometers per hour (715 miles per hour)—0.94 Mach—broke the previous record which had been set two years earlier by her friend, Jacqueline Cochran.
Jacqueline Auriol was awarded the Harmon International Trophy for 1955, the third of four that she would receive.
The Société des Avions Marcel Dassault MD.454 Mystère IVN 01 was the first of two prototype two-place, single-engine, swept-wing interceptors. 01 was first flown 19 July 1954 by test pilot Gérrard Muselli. It had a large air-search radar mounted over the intake and was armed with 52 rockets carried in a retractable tray in the belly, very similar to the North American Aviation F-86D Sabre. The fuselage had been lengthened over the single-seat Mystère IV to provide space for the second cockpit.
The Mystère IVN was 49 feet, 11 inches (15.215 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 6 inches (11.430 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 1 inch (4.597 meters). Its empty weight was 15,741 pounds (7,140 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 22,572 pounds (10,238 kilograms).
The Mystère IV N was powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7R axial flow, afterburning turbojet engine. It used a 12-stage compressor, 8 combustion chambers and 2-stage turbine. It produced 9,500 pounds of thrust (42.258 kilonewtons) at 7,800 r.p.m., with afterburner. The engine was 42.2 inches (1.072 meters) in diameter, 276 inches (7.010 meters) long and weighed 2,960 pounds (1,343 kilograms).
Jacqueline Auriol’s record-setting Dassault Mystère IV N 01 F-ZXRM is on display at the Conservatoire l’Air et l’Espace d’Acquitane, Bordeaux Merignac Airport, France.
24 May 1930: After a 19-day, 11,000-mile (17,700 kilometers), solo flight from Croyden Aerodrome, London, England, 26-year-old Miss Amy Johnson arrived at Darwin, Australia, in her de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, G-AAAH, named Jason.¹ She was awarded a £10,000 prize from the Daily Mail newspaper.
Miss Johnson’s flight was made in 18 legs. From London, she flew to Aspern, Austria; San Stefano, Republic of Turkey; Aleppo, French Mandate of Syria; Baghdad, Kingdom of Iraq; Bandar-Abbas, Persia; Karachi, Sindh; Jhansi, British India; Allahabad, British India; Calcutta, British India; Insein, Burma; Bangkok, Kingdom of Siam; Singora, Siam; Singapore, Straits Settlements; Tjomal, Samarang, and Sourabaya, Dutch East Indies; Atambua, Dutch Timor; and across the Timor Sea to Darwin, Northern Territory, Commonwealth of Australia.
For her accomplishment, Miss Johnson was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.). She was also awarded the Harmon Trophy, “for the most outstanding international achievements in the arts and/or science of aeronautics for the preceding year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration.”
Her Gipsy Moth is in the collection of the Science Museum, London, England.
Amy Johnson was a rated Engineer (aircraft mechanic) and Navigator, as well as a licensed Pilot. She had set many flight records, both individually and with her husband, James Mollison, whom she had married in 1932. He proposed to her during an airplane flight, only eight hours after having met her.
During World War II, Amy Johnson flew for the Royal Air Force as a First Officer of the Air Transport Auxiliary (equivalent to the RAF rank of Flight Lieutenant). On 5 January 1941, at approximately 3:30 p.m., Johnson bailed out of the Oxford and parachuted into the Thames Estuary. The airplane crashed into the river a short distance away and sank.
Amy Johnson’s parachute was seen by the crew of HMS Haslemere, a barrage balloon tender assigned to the Channel Mobile Balloon Barrage in the Estuary. They attempted to rescue her and in the process, the ship’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Walter Edmund Fletcher, Royal Navy, dove into the water. In the cold temperatures and rough conditions, Fletcher died. For his effort to rescue Johnson, he was awarded the Albert Medal, posthumously.
In recent years, stories have emerged that the AS.10 was shot down after Johnson twice gave the incorrect response to a radio challenge. Tom Mitchell, an anti-aircraft gunner of the 58th (Kent) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment, at Iwade, a small village along the shore of the Thames Estuary, said in 1999 that he shot her down under orders, firing 16 shells at the Oxford. The men of the battery were ordered to never mention the incident. There were contemporary reports that a destroyer had also fired on Johnson, though the Admiralty denied this.
The de Havilland DH.60 was a light-weight, two-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane. The fuselage was covered with plywood and the wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric. It was 23 feet, 5½ inches (7.150 meters) long with a wingspan of 29 feet, 0 inches (8.839 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters).
The airplane was designed so that the wings could be folded parallel to the fuselage, giving it an approximate width of 9 feet (2.7 meters). The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 3 inches (1.295 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 4 feet, 10 inches (1.473 meters) and lower wing was staggered 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) behind the upper. Both wings had 3.5° angle of incidence and 3.5° dihedral. There was no sweep.
Empty, the DH.60 had a weight of 764 pounds (346.6 kilograms) and loaded weight of 1,650 pounds (748 kilograms).
The original DH.60 Moth, which first flew in 1925, was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 4.503 liter (274.771-cubic-inch-displacement) A.D.C. Aircraft Ltd., Cirrus inline 4-cylinder overhead valve (OHV) engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The direct-drive engine produced 60 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 65 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The Cirrus was 0.983 meters (3.225 feet) long, 0.908 meters (2.979 feet) high and 0.450 meters (1.476 feet) wide. It weighed 260 pounds (118 kilograms). The A.D.C. Cirrus was designed by Major Frank Bernard Halford, who later designed the de Havilland Gipsy engine, as well as the Goblin and Ghost turbojet engines.
The DH.60G Gipsy Moth was first produced in 1928. It was powered by a 318.09-cubic-inch-displacement (5.212 liter) air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy I inline 4-cylinder direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5:1. It was capable of producing 130 horsepower, but de-rated to 100 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. The Gipsy I was 40.5 inches (1.029 meters) long, 29.9 inches (0.759 meters) high and 20 inches (0.508 meters) wide. It weighed 285 pounds (129 kilograms).
The Gipsy Moth has a cruise speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 102 miles per hour (164 kilometers per hour). Range for the standard aircraft is 320 miles (515 kilometers). The service ceiling is 14,500 feet (4,420 meters).
De Havilland built 8 pre-production and 31 production DH.60 Moths. 595 DH.60s of all variants were produced at Stag Lane.
¹ Amy Johnson’s father, John William Johnson, provided £600 to pay for the airplane. He worked for Andrew Johnson & Knudtzon and Co., Ltd., which used “Jason” as a trademark. The Automobile Association’s badge appears on the Gipsy Moth at the Science Museum, although it was not present on the airplane during her record-breaking flight.
21 May 1937: Day 2 of Amelia Earhart’s second attempt to fly around the world aboard her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, fly from Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California, to Tucson, Arizona, where they stopped to refuel. Earhart’s husband, George Palmer Putnam, and aircraft mechanic Ruckins D. “Bo” McKneely were also aboard. ¹
When Earhart attempted to restart the left engine at Tucson, it caught fire. An unplanned overnight stay was required while the damage was repaired.
“Accompanying me on this hop across the continent was Fred Noonan. “Bo” McKneely my mechanic, and Mr. Putnam. A leisurely afternoon’s flight ended at Tucson, Arizona. The weather was sailing hot as Arizona can be in summertime. After landing and checking in, when I started my motors again to taxi to the filling pit the left one back-fired and burst into flames. For a few seconds it was nip-and-tuck whether the fire would get away from us. There weren’t adequate extinguishers ready on the ground but fortunately the Lux apparatus built in the engine killed the fire. The damage was trivial, mostly some pungently cooked rubber fittings a deal of dirty grime. The engine required a good cleaning and the ship a face-washing.” —Amelia Earhart
¹ Although the standard Lockheed Electra 10E was certified to carry up to 10 passengers, the Restricted certification of NR16020 limited it to, “Only bona fide members of the crew to be carried.” The presence of Putnam and McKneely violated this restriction.