30 April 1969: Turi Widerøe made her first scheduled flight as the first officer of a Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) Convair 440 Metroliner. She was the first woman to fly for a Western airline.
Captain Widerøe earned her commercial pilot certificate in 1965 and flew the Noorduyn Norseman and de Havilland Otter for Widerøe’s Flyveselskap A/S, a regional air service founded by her father, Viggo Widerøe. In 1968 she joined SAS and completed the company flight academy in 1969, qualified as a first officer. She later was promoted to captain, and flew the Caravelle and Douglas DC-9 jet airliners.
The New York Times, in keeping with the sexist attitudes of the era, referred to her as a “svelte blonde” and made sure to include her physical dimensions: “. . . who has the height (just under 6 feet), the cheekbones and the long, shapely legs of a fashion model. . . her shapely statistics only in centimeters (98–68–100, which translates out to about 38½–26½–39). . .” ¹
In 1969, Ms. Widerøe was awarded the Harmon International Trophy “for the outstanding international achievement in the arts and/or science of aeronautics for the preceding year.”
Turi Widerøe left SAS in the late 1970s following the birth of her second child. Her airline officer’s uniform is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
Turi Widerøe was born 23 November 1937 at Oslo, Norway. She is the daughter of Viggo Widerøe and Solveig Agnes Schrøder. She studied at the Statens håndverks- og kunstindustriskole (the Norwegian National Academy of Arts and Craft Industry), graduating in 1958. She worked as a book designer and magazine editor, then as assistant manager of a mine in Troms.
Ms. Widerøe qualified for a private pilot license in 1962. After earning a commercial pilot license, she went to work for Flyveselskap A/S, though her father was initially opposed to her career change.
After leaving SAS, Ms. Widerøe went to work for NRK, the national radio and television broadcast service of Norwaay, as a program director.
In 1972, Ms. Widerøe married Karl Erik Harr, and artist. They divorced in 1975.
She earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Oslo in 1998, and a second master’s from the University of Tromsø in 2006.
¹ “Svelte Blonde Is a Commercial Pilot,” by Judy Klemesrud, The New York Times, 16 February 1970, Page 40, Columns 1–4
24 April 1929: At Roosevelt Field, Mineola, Long Island, New York, 17-year-old Elinor Smith set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration by staying aloft over Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, in a Bellanca CH Monoplane for 26 hours, 27 minutes. ¹ Miss Smith had very nearly doubled her own record, set just four months earlier. ²
During the flight the airplane’s elevator trim adjustment malfunctioned, forcing Smith to use both arms to hold the stick back to maintain level flight. She dropped a note in a weighted sack to advise those on the ground of the problem.
The Associated Press reported the event:
FLAPPER ‘ACE’ TOPS WOMEN’S AIR RECORDS
Elinor Smith Is Up Above 26 Hours; Victor Over Four.
By Associated Press,
ROOSEVELT FIELD, N.Y., April 24.—Elinor Smith, 17-year-old flying flapper of Long Island, won a victory Wednesday in the four-sided battle being waged among two women from the eastern seaboard and two from the west for the women’s solo endurance record.
She brought her plane down at 2:2:16 p.m. after 26 hours 21 minutes and 32 seconds in the air, beating the record of 22 hours 3 minutes and 12 seconds established by Louise McPhetridge of California by hours 18 minutes and 20 seconds.
Before Mrs. McPhetridge, Miss Bobbie Trout of California was the record holder. Miss Trout beat an earlier record of Miss Smith, who in turn on that earlier flight beat a record held by Viola Gentry, Long Island’s flying cashier.
Miss Smith’s record Wednesday was within 9 hours, 11 minutes and 49 seconds of the man’s solo endurance flight record of 35 hours, 33 minutes and 21 seconds, established at Roosevelt Field last month by Martin Jensen.
Beats Early Mark
Less than three minutes before, Miss Smith exceeded the first world endurance record ever established at this field. In 1921, Eddie Stinson of Detroit and Lloyd Bertaud, who was lost with the transatlantic plane Old Glory, established a record there of 26 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds, which was 2 minutes and 57 seconds less than the record set single-handed Wednesday by Miss Smith.
About 8:30 a.m. a note was dropped from the plane in which the young flier was having trouble with the stabilizer and had both arms “wrapped around the stick.”
Sure of Victory
It was apparent, however, that she did not regard the trouble as serious for the note added: “Tough night but it won’t be long now.”
Miss Smith brought her plane, a cabin monoplane borrowed from G.M. Bellanca, airplane designer, down to a perfect landing.
“I think it’s wonderful that I broke the record. Now I want to get some sleep,” she said as she dodged the crowds and vanished homeward.
Miss Smith’s mother Wednesday night said plans had been made for Elinor to make a transatlantic flight this summer, probably to Rome. She said backers already had been obtained.
—The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 25, 1929, Page 1, Column 4.
The Bellanca CH Monoplane (also referred to as the CH-200) was a single-engine high-wing monoplane, designed by Giuseppe Mario Bellanca and built by the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of America, Newcastle, Delaware. It was operated by one pilot and could carry up to 5 passengers in an enclosed cabin.
The airplane was 27 feet, 9 inches (8.458 meters) long with a wingspan of 46 feet, 4 inches (14.122 meters) and height of 8 feet, 4 inches (2.540 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,275 pounds (1,032 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,072 pounds (1,847 kilograms).
The Bellanca CH Monoplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Whirlwind J-5 nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. It was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 225 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. This was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed propeller. The Wright J-5C was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).
The airplane’s maximum speed was 126 miles per hour (203 kilometers per hour) and its range was 800 miles (1,287 kilometers).
Elinor Regina Patricia Ward was born in New York City, 17 August 1911. She was the second of three children of Thomas Francis Ward, a vaudeville dancer and comedian, and Agnes A. Ward, a singer. In order to avoid being mistaken for another performer, Mr. Ward changed his name to Smith. Miss Ward also adopted the name and is better known as “Elinor Smith.”
Miss Smith took her first flight in an airplane at the age of six years. When she was ten she began flight training in her father’s Weaver Aircraft Co. Waco 9 biplane. Just before her seventeenth birthday she qualified for a pilot’s certificate. It was issued 14 August 1928 by the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A., on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Certificate No. 6906 was signed by Orville Wright, Chairman of the N.A.A.
Elinor Smith first came to the attention of the general public when, on 21 October 1928, she flew under four bridges on New York City’s East River.
In November 1928 Miss Smith was employed by the Irvin Air Chute Company as a pilot. She toured the United States, flying a Bellanca Pacemaker.
On 10 March 1930, Smith set an FAI world altitude for women of 8,357 meters (27,418 feet). ³ She flew a Bellanca Skyrocket, NC752W.
In May 1930, the Aeronautics Branch, U.S. Department of Commerce issued a Transport License to Miss Smith. She was the youngest pilot to receive that license up to that time.
A 1930 poll of licensed pilots in the United States selected Smith as the Best Woman Pilot in America. Her male counterpart was the legendary Jimmy Doolittle.
Elinor Smith set several U.S. national records for speed, altitude and duration. From 1930 to 1935, she was an expert commentator on aviation for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) radio network.
On 22 July 1933, Patrick H. Sullivan II, an attorney and member of the New York State Assembly for the 11th District of New York County, married Elinor Smith in New York City. They would have four children. Following the birth of their first child, Patrick H. Sullivan III, Mrs. Sullivan gave up flying.
In 1934, Mrs. Sullivan became the first woman to be featured on the box of General Mills’ Wheaties breakfast cereal, “The Breakfast of Champions.” This has always been a high honor for sporting men and women.
After her husband died in 1956, Elinor Smith Sullivan resumed flying, and continued until she was 89 years old.
Mrs. Elinor Smith Sullivan died 19 March 2010 at Lytton Gardens Health Care Center, Palo Alto, California. She was aged 98 years, 7 months and 3 days.
¹ FAI Record File Number 12217. Duration: 26 hours, 27 minutes. 24 April 1929.
² FAI Record File Number 12216. Duration: 13 hours, 17 minutes, 45 seconds. 31 January 1929.
³ FAI Record File Number 12226. Altitude, Female: 8,357 meters (27,418 feet), 10 March 1930.
16 April 1912: American aviatrix Harriet Quimby flew across the English Channel in a Blériot XI monoplane. She departed Dover at 5:30 a.m. and crossed a fog-shrouded channel to land at Hardelot-Plage, Pas-de-Calais, 1 hour, 9 minutes later. Her only instruments were a hand-held compass and a watch.
Quimby was the first woman to fly across the channel, but that was not her only “first”: On 11 August 1911, she had become the first American woman to be licensed as a pilot. She was known for her purple satin flying suit.
Harriet Quimby was killed at Quincy, Massachusetts, 1 July 1912, when her Blériot XI, circling the airfield at 1,500 feet (457 meters) suddenly pitched down and she and her passenger were thrown out.
The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane, designed by Raymond Saulnier and built by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. It 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.
1 April 1921: Adrienne Bolland, a pilot employed by René Caudron to demonstrate his airplanes in South America, flew a Caudron G.3 from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, across the Andes Mountain Range.
Mlle Bolland’s route followed the Paso de Upsallata, passing south of Aconcagua, at 6,960.8 meters (22,837 feet), the highest mountain in the Andes, and north of Volcan Tupangato, 6,570 meters (21,580 feet). The duration of the flight was 4 hours, 17 minutes.
Bolland was awarded a gold medal by the Argentine League of Patriots at Buenos Aires.
Mdlle. Bolland Crosses the Andes
From a Daily Mail report Mdlle. Bolland, the French aviatress, on April 1, left Mendoza, Argentina, at 7.30, and flew over the Andes Mountains, arriving at Santiago in Chile, just three hours later.
This the second time Mdlle. Bolland has flown over the Andes.
The distance Mdlle. Bolland covered was about 112 miles. There are heights of more than 20,000 ft. in the neighborhood of the point at which she crossed the range.
We are just wondering whether the journey was a “non-stop” one, with strong headwinds, or whether a halt was made en route, and if the latter, where.
—FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 641 (No. 14, Vol. XIII.), 7 April 1921, at Page 250, Column 2
Adrienne Armande Pauline Boland was born at Arcueil, a suburb of Paris, France, 25 November 1895. She was the youngest of seven children of writer Henri André Joseph Boland and Marie Amélie Elisabeth Françoise Allonie (Marie Joséphine) Pasques. Her father died in 1909, and her mother sometime later.
At the age of 24, she decided to learn to fly and enrolled in flight training at Société des Avions Caudron (the Caudron Airplane Company), Le Crotoy. She started training 16 November 1919 and was awarded her pilot’s license 29 January 1920. An error on the certificate spelled her surname with two “l”s, and she retained the name “Bolland” for the rest of her life.
Mlle Bolland was employed by René Caudron to transport airplanes to and from the factory. She told Caudron that she wanted her own airplane. He told her that if she could perform a loop in a Caudron G.3, a pre-World War I scout plane, that she could fly it for the company. She did, and was then asked to fly it across the English Channel, which she did, 25 August 1920.
Caudron sent her to Argentina to demonstrate his airplanes. Once there, she planned to fly across the Cordillera de los Andes (the Andes Mountain Range) to Chile on the western coast of South America. The mountains were higher than the airplane was capable of flying, so she had to fly through valleys to find a way across. Departing Mendoza, Argentina at 6:00 a.m, she headed across the 400-kilometer (250 miles) wide mountain range. Most of the flight was at an altitude of 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) and it was extremely cold. Without maps, she succeeded: “Suddenly I saw a break in the mountains. . . and in the distance, the plain of Chile. I was saved.”
The airplane was sold in Santiago and Bolland returned to Buenos Aires by train.
After returning to France, Mlle Bolland was a frequent participant at air meets, displaying her skills in aerobatics. She flew two Caudron C.27s, G-AGAP (c/n 5533.7) and F-AGAQ (c/n 5534.8), both registered in her name 27 February 1924. At the Aérodrome d’Orly, Paris, on 27 May 1924, she took off at 4:12 p.m., completed 212 consecutive loops, then landed at 5:25 p.m. (The Caudron C.27 was redesignated C.127 in late 1924.)
In 1924, France named Adrienne Bolland Chevalier de la légion d’honneur for her flight across the Andes.
Ernest Jean Baptiste Charles Vinchon married Mlle Bolland in Paris, 15 March 1930.
After the surrender of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, M. and Mme Vichon remained in occupied France and became agents of the Confrérie Notre-Dame (CND, or Brotherhood of Notre Dame, later called CND-Castile), an intelligence organization of the Forces françaises libres (Free French Forces).
For her services during World War II, in 1947 Mme Vichon was advanced to the rank of Officier de la Légion d’honneur.
Adrienne Bolland Vichon died at Paris, France, 18 March 1975 at the age of 79 years. She was buried in Donnery, Loiret.
Adrienne Bolland crossed the Andes in a Caudron G.3, c/n 4902, registered F-ABEW. The Caudron G.3 was a World War I reconnaissance airplane and flight trainer manufactured by Société des Avions Caudron. It is called a sesquiplane because the lower wing is significantly shorter than the upper. The G.3 was a single-engine aircraft that was built in single- and two-place variants. The engine and cockpit are contained in a very short fuselage, supporting the wings and landing gear. Tail control surfaces are mounted on an open framework tail boom.
The Caudron G.3 was 6.40 meters (21 feet) long with an upper wingspan of 13.40 meters (44 feet). The height of the aircraft was 2.50 meters (11 feet, 2 inches). The airplane had an empty weight of 420 kilograms (926 pounds) and maximum weight of 710 kilograms (1,565 pounds).
The G.3 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 10.910 liter (665.791 cubic inches) Société des Moteurs Le Rhône 9C nine cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5:1. It was rated at 70 cheval vapeur (1 ch = 0.99 horsepower) at 1,100 r.p.m., and 80 cheval vapeur at 1,200 r.p.m., but able to produce a maximum 92 cheval vapeur (90.77 horsepower) at 1,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The 9C was 0.810 meters (2 feet, 7.9 inches) long, 0.930 meters (3 feet, 6.1 inches) in diameter and weighed 119 kilograms (262 pounds).
The Caudron G.3 had a maximum speed of 106 kilometers per hour (66 miles per hour) and service ceiling of 4,300 meters (14,108 feet).
24 March 1939: During a 2 hour, 26 minute flight over southern California, Jacqueline Cochran established a U.S. National Altitude Record for Women of 9,160 meters (30,052 feet). She flew a Beechcraft D17W “Staggerwing,” serial number 164, registered NR18562.
A National Aeronautic Association official, Larry Therkelson, took the recording barograph from the airplane and sent it to the N.A.A. headquarters in Washington, D.C., for certification. The record had previously been held by Ruth Rowland Nichols.¹
“Were I to make the simple statement that I climbed to an altitude of thirty-three thousand feet, that statement in and of itself would mean nothing because I have often gone higher than that. But when I add that I did this in 1937 in a fabric-covered biplane without heating, without pressurization and without an oxygen mask, the elements of an accomplishment are added. I nearly froze; the pipestem between my teeth through which I tried to get an oxygen supply from a tank and connecting tube was inadequate for the purpose, and I became so disoriented through lack of oxygen that it took over an hour to get my bearings and make a landing. The difference between the pressure my body was accustomed to on the ground and the atmospheric pressure at 33,000 feet was such that a blood vessel in my sinus ruptured. All this was a part of the cumulative evidence that led up to cabin pressurization and and mandatory use of the oxygen mask above certain altitudes.”
— The Stars at Noon, by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1954, Chapter IV at Pages 61–62.
According to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, Jackie Cochran “. . . set more speed and altitude records than any other pilot.”
The Beechcraft D17W was a special version of the D17 production model. Only two were built. Jackie Cochran purchased it from Beech for $20,145, and it had been delivered to her by famed aviator Frank Hawks.
The “Staggerwing” was a single-engine, four-place biplane with an enclosed cabin and retractable landing gear, flown by a single pilot. The basic structure was a tubular steel framework, with wood formers and stringers. The wings and tail surfaces were built of wood spars and ribs. The airplane was covered with doped fabric, except the cabin and engine, which were covered in sheet metal.
The airplane was 26 feet, 10 inches (8.179 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 0 inches (9.754 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 0 inches (2.438 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,540 pounds (1,152.1 kilograms) and loaded weight of 4,250 pounds (1,927.8 kilograms).
The standard Beechcraft D17S was equipped with an air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liters) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. A, a nine-cylinder radial engine producing 300 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m at Sea Level. It had a maximum speed of 212 miles per hour (341 kilometers per hour), 670 mile (1,078 kilometer) range and service ceiling of 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).
The 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp SC-G engine installed in Jackie Cochran’s D17W was an experimental version of the Wasp C with 5:4 propeller reduction gearing. It produced 600 horsepower at 2,850 r.p.m. for takeoff, and 525 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., up to 9,500 feet (2,896 meters). The SC-G never entered production.
During World War II, Beechcraft D17W, c/n 164, was impressed into military service at Tarrant Field, Texas, 12 March 1943. Assigned to the United States Army Air Corps, it was given the designation UC-43K Traveler and Air Corps serial number 42-107277. It was turned over to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 22 November 1944. The airplane was now powered by a 971.930-cubic-inch displacement (15.927 liter) Wright R-975-5 Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial and was redesignated Beechcraft D17R. It was sold to the Carver Pump Company, Muscatine, Iowa, and registered NC50958.
The record-setting Beechcraft Staggerwing crashed at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, 15 December 1945.
¹ FAI Record File Number 12228: 8,761 meters (28,743 feet), 6 March 1931.