Tag Archives: Pilot

11 May 1906–9 August 1980

COCHRAN, Jacqueline, in the cockpit of her North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang NX28388, AAF 43-24760, c/n 104-25789, #13, at Cleveland Municipal Airport. (Image Number: SI-86-533, National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of her North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang NX28388, #13, at Cleveland Municipal Airport. (Image Number: SI-86-533, National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

9 August 1980: Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran, Colonel, United States Air Force Reserve, passed away at her home in Indio, CA, at the age of 74. Jackie was truly a giant of aviation. She earned her pilot’s license in 1932 and was best of friends with Amelia Earhart. She helped found the WASPs in World War II. She was a friend and advisor to generals and presidents. Jackie was highly respected by such legendary test pilots as Fred Ascani and Chick Yeager.

During her aviation career, Colonel Cochran won the Harmon Trophy 14 times. She set many speed, distance and altitude records. Just a few are:  Piloting a Canadair CL13 Sabre Mk 3, serial number 19200 (a license-built F-86E variant), she was the first woman to exceed the speed of sound, flying 652.337 mph on 18 May 1953. She flew the same Sabre to a world record 47,169 feet (14,377 meters). She was also the first woman to fly Mach 2, flying a record 1,400.30 miles per hour (2,300.23 kilometers per hour) in a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 11 May 1964.

The following is the official U.S. Air Force biography:

“Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Cochran was a leading aviatrix who promoted an independent Air Force and was the director of women’s flying training for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots program during World War II. She held more speed, altitude and distance records than any other male or female pilot in aviation history at the time of her death.

“She was born between 1905 and 1908 in Florida. Orphaned at early age, she spent her childhood moving from one town to another with her foster family. At 13, she became a beauty operator in the salon she first cleaned. Eventually she rose to the top of her profession, owning a prestigious salon, and establishing her own cosmetics company. She learned to fly at the suggestion of her future husband, millionaire Floyd Odlum, to travel more efficiently. In 1932, she received her license after only three weeks of lessons and immediately pursued advanced instruction. Cochran set three major flying records in 1937 and won the prestigious Bendix Race in 1938.

“As a test pilot, she flew and tested the first turbo-supercharger ever installed on an aircraft engine in 1934. During the following two years, she became the first person to fly and test the forerunner to the Pratt & Whitney 1340 and 1535 engines. In 1938, she flew and tested the first wet wing ever installed on an aircraft. With Dr. Randolph Lovelace, she helped design the first oxygen mask, and then became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one.

“In 1940, she made the first flight on the Republic P-43, and recommended a longer tail wheel installation, which was later installed on all P-47 aircraft. Between 1935 and 1942, she flew many experimental flights for Sperry Corp., testing gyro instruments.

“Cochran was hooked on flying. She set three speed records, won the Clifford Burke Harmon trophy three times and set a world altitude record of 33,000 feet – all before 1940. In the year 1941, Cochran captured an aviation first when she became the first woman pilot to pilot a military bomber across the Atlantic Ocean.

“With World War II on the horizon, Cochran talked Eleanor Roosevelt into the necessity of women pilots in the coming war effort. Cochran was soon recruiting women pilots to ferry planes for the British Ferry Command, and became the first female trans-Atlantic bomber pilot. While Cochran was in Britain, another renowned female pilot, Nancy Harkness Love, suggested the establishment of a small ferrying squadron of trained female pilots. The proposal was ultimately approved. Almost simultaneously, Gen. H.H. Arnold asked Cochran to return to the U.S. to establish a program to train women to fly. In August of 1943, the two schemes merged under Cochran’s leadership. They became the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.

“She recruited more than 1,000 Women’s Airforce Service Pilots and supervised their training and service until they were disbanded in 1944. More than 25,000 applied for training, 1,830 were accepted and 1,074 made it through a very tough program to graduation. These women flew approximately 60 million miles for the Army Air Force with only 38 fatalities, or about 1 for every 16,000 hours flown. Cochran was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for services to her country during World War II.

“She went on to be a press correspondent and was present at the surrender of Japanese General Yamashita, was the first U.S. woman to set foot in Japan after the war, and then went on to China, Russia, Germany and the Nuremburg trials. In 1948 she became a member of the independent Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in the Reserve. She had various assignments which included working on sensitive projects important to defense.

“Flying was still her passion, and with the onset of the jet age, there were new planes to fly. Access to jet aircraft was mainly restricted to military personnel, but Cochran, with the assistance of her friend Gen. Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet owned by the company in 1953, and went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph in 1964.

“Cochran retired from the Reserve in 1970 as a colonel. After heart problems and a pacemaker stopped her fast-flying activities at the age of 70, Cochran took up soaring. In 1971, she was named Honorary Fellow, Society of Experimental Test Pilots and inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame.

“She wrote her autobiography, The Autobiography of the Greatest Woman Pilot in Aviation History with Maryann B. Brinley (Bantam Books). After her husband died in 1976, her health deteriorated rapidly and she died Aug. 9, 1980.”

The above biography is from the web site of the United States Air Force:

http://www.af.mil/information/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Beech D17W “Staggerwing”, NR18562. (FAI)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 May 1911

Second Lieutenant George E.M. Kelly, United States Army
Second Lieutenant George E.M. Kelly, United States Army

10 May 1911: Second Lieutenant George Edward Maurice Kelly, 30th Infantry Regiment, United States Army, was killed during his primary pilot qualification flight at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Kelly, an officer of the 30th Infantry, had been sent to San Diego, California, in January 1911 as one of three U.S. Army officers to attend Glenn H. Curtiss’ Curtiss School of Aviation, newly established on North Island. After three months of training he was sent to Texas where the Army had set up its own training field.

Lieutenant Kelly was flying the Army’s second airplane, S.C. No. 2, a Curtiss Model D Type IV. The airplane had been accepted just two weeks earlier.

Curtiss Type IV Model D, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)
Curtiss Model D Type IV, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)

The New York Times reported in its 11 May 1911 issue:

LIEUT. KELLY KILLED; HIS AIRSHIP WRECKED;

Army Airman Suffers Fractured Skull in Fall at San Antonio and Dies and Hour Later.

CARTER AND STAFF PRESENT

Only Up Five Minutes When Mishap in Control Equipment prevented His Shutting Off Power.

Special to The New York Times

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, May 10.—Second Lieut. George E.M. Kelly of the United States Signal Corps, one of four army aviators on duty with the division of regulars mobilized here, was killed this morning when a Curtiss aeroplane he was flying got beyond control, after which it ran through the air for over a hundred yards, and crashed to the ground, burying Lieut. Kelly in its wreckage.

The machine was reduced to splinters, the only parts of it left intact being the engine and the rear plane work. Lieut. Kelly suffered a fractured skull and died in the Fort Sam Houston Hospital an hour later. He never regained consciousness. The accident happened about 7:30 this morning, in full view of Gen. Carter and his staff and hundreds of soldiers.

The exact cause of the accident will probably never be known, although a board of officers from the Signal Corps who investigated the accident are of the opinion that it was due to a break in some part of the controlling mechanism, making it impossible for Kelly to shut off the power when he realized his peril.

The accident happened about one hundred yards from Gen. Carter’s headquarters. The young officer had been in the air about five minutes, and Major Squier, Chief Signal Corps officer, had commented on the fine flight he was making, when the aviator pointed his machine downward for the purpose of making a landing. The machine was going at a speed estimated at between forty and fifty miles an hour. It shot down, apparently under perfect control, and landed a few feet away from one of the main driveways that intersect the mobilization camp. Kelly could be seen working frantically at the steering wheel as the machine descended, and when it struck the ground everybody breathed a sigh of relief, believing the officer was safe.

But the unexpected happened. The machine ran along the ground for ten or fifteen yards and then the fork into which is fitted the front wheel struck some obstruction and a moment later the propeller began to revolve at a wild speed. It could be seen that the left part of the machine was absolutely beyond the control of the aviator. It suddenly shot forward several yards, and then ascended to an altitude of between fifteen and twenty feet. It darted through the air in the direction of the Eleventh Infantry camp, tumbling and rolling like a wounded bird. The officer could be seen working the broken controller, but those who witnessed the sight say that at no time did he have a chance to escape with his life.

The machine gave a last tumble in the air and fell with a crash to the ground. Kelly was pitched out just as it started downward. The aviator and the machine struck the ground at the same instant.

Photograph o fteh accident scene at Fort San Antonio, published in the San Antonio Express, 11 May 1911.
Photograph of the accident scene at Fort San Antonio, published by the San Antonio Express, 11 May 1911.

Major Squier, Lieut. Foulois, Frank Coffyn, the Wright aviator, and a trooper were the first to reach the side of the dying aviator, whose skull was crushed. He lay under the wreckage of one of the planes, his face to the ground. The ambulance came up a moment later. Lieut. Foucar of the Medical Corps, in charge of the ambulance, examined Lieut. Kelly and informed Major Squier that he was mortally hurt.

By this time the Third Cavalry galloped up and formed a cordon around the place where Kelly lay dying. Lieut. Foucar, aided by troopers, picked him up and hurried him to the hospital, where Major Hutton, the Chief Surgeon, after examining him said there was no chance to save his life. An hour and ten minutes later he died.

Others new when Kelly was killed, besides Gen Carter, were Col. Stephen Mills, Chief of Staff; Lieut. Col. Ladd, the Adjutant General, and Col. Birmingham, Col. Straub, Capt. Leonard and Capt. Craig, all of the division staff. The whole camp knew of the accident within a few minutes after it had happened, and on all sides the deepest feelings of regret were expressed for the unfortunate aviator, who was one of the most popular members of the army corps.

Major General George Owen Squier, Signal Corps, United States Army.
Major General George Owen Squier, Signal Corps, United States Army.

As soon as order was restored Major Squier appointed a board of three signal officers to investigate the accident. Lieut. Paul W. Beck, chief of the corps, was President of the board, the other members being Lieut. Fulois and Lieut. Walker. After a hearing that lasted several hours they reported that atmospheric conditions were good at the time of the accident, that Kelly’s first landing was a good one, and that the cause of the accident was due to a break in some part of the control equipment which made impossible the management of the engine and planes. The report has been forwarded to Gen. Allen, Chief of the Signal Corps, in Washington.

The accident to Lieut. Kelly is the third within the last ten days. All of them befell the same Curtiss aeroplane in which Kelly was flying. Lieut. Walker figured in the first accident. On that occasion, in making a turn, the machine got out of his control and fell 150 feet before it righted itself. Lieut. Beck was the victim of the next accident.  He fell over 200 feet and landed in a mesquite tree. The machine was badly wrecked. When Lieut. Kelly went up this morning it was the first time the machine had been in the air since its mishap with Lieut. Beck.

Second Lieutenant George E.M. Kelly, U.S. Army, at Curtiss School of Aviation, North Island, San Diego, California, ca. April 1911. (George Hammond Curtiss Historical Society)
Second Lieutenant George E.M. Kelly, U.S. Army, at Curtiss School of Aviation, North Island, San Diego, California, ca. April 1911. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Lieut. Kelly came to San Antonio about six weeks ago with Lieuts. Beck and Walker. All had been receiving instruction from Glenn H. Curtiss at San Diego, Cal., and had certificates from Mr. Curtiss testifying that they were capable aviators. When the Curtiss machine arrived several weeks ago Eugene Ely, one of the Curtiss aviators, was sent here to look after the instruction of Lieuts. Beck, Kelly, and Walker, who had been assigned to fly the machine. Ely left ten days ago to fulfill some exhibition engagements, and is not due back until May 14.

Speaking of the accident this afternoon, Major Squier said that, in his opinion, it was unavoidable.

“Lieut. Kelly,” he added, “was one of the best men in the Signal Corps. He was a quiet, unassuming fellow, devoted to his work, and gave every promise of becoming one of the army’s most valuable aviators. However, we must all remember that an aviator’s life is one in which the danger phase must be considered. Orders have been issued forbidding further flying for the next few days.”

Lieut. Kelly was a native of England and joined the army in 1904 as a private in the Coast Artillery. He held every non-commissioned rank from Corporal to Sergeant, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Thirtieth Infantry in 1907. He was unmarried and is said to have a sister living in New York City. His parents are believed to be in England.

Lieut. Kelly was the second army officer to be killed in an aeroplane. The other was Lieut. Thomas B. Selfridge, who fell with Orville Wright at Fort Myer, Va., in September, 1908.

The New York Times, 11 May 1911, Page 2. (The photographs are from other sources and were not part of the original New York Times article.)

Second Lieutenant George Edward Maurice Kelly was the second U.S. Army aviator killed in an airplane accident, however he was the first pilot killed while flying his own airplane. His remains were interred at the San Antonio National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas.

In 1916, the Army replaced the air field at Fort San Antonio with a new field on the opposite side of the city. The new airfield was initially named Camp Kelly, then Kelly Field. In 1948, it was renamed Kelly Air Force Base.

Main Gate, Kelly Field, circa 1916. (U.S. Air Force)
Main Gate, Kelly Field, circa 1916. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 April 1969

Turi Widerøe with “Atle Viking,” a 1957 Convair 440-75 Metroliner, LN-KLA, operated by Scandinavian Airlines System. (SAS)
Turi Widerøe with “Atle Viking,” a 1957 Convair 440-75 Metroliner, LN-KLA, operated by Scandinavian Airlines System. (SAS)
Harmon International Trophy (Aviatrix)
Harmon International Trophy (Aviatrix)

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.

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.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 April 1943

Graduating class of WASP Pilots pass in review.
Graduating class of WASP Pilots pass in review at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas. (U.S. Air Force)

24 April 1943: The first class of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, Class 43-1, graduated from the four-month flight training program and earned their wings as U.S. Army pilots. The class entered with 38 trainees and 24 graduated. Each woman had a civil pilot’s license and at least 200 hours of flight time. Over 25,000 women applied and approximately 1,900 were accepted. By the end of the war, 1,074 had graduated.

The WASPs received the same primary, basic and advanced flight training as their U.S. Army Air Force male counterparts. Some went on to specialized training in heavy bombers or fighters.

WASP pilots FrancesGreen, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborne at the four-engine school at Lockbourne Army Airfield, Ohio, with a Boeing B-17. (U.S. Air Force)
WASP pilots Frances Green, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborne at the four-engine school at Lockbourne Army Airfield, Ohio, with a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. (U.S. Air Force)
Test pilots were not always men. These four women, members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), were assigned as engineering test pilots, testing new aircraft and modifications. The airplane behind them is a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bomber. From left to right, Dorothy Dodd Eppstein, Hellen Skjersaa Hansen, Doris Burmeister Nathan and Elizabeth V. Chadwick Dressler. (U.S. Air Force)
Test pilots were not always men. These four women, members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), were assigned as engineering test pilots, testing new aircraft and modifications. The airplane behind them is a North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bomber. From left to right, Dorothy Dodd Eppstein, Hellen Skjersaa Hansen, Doris Burmeister Nathan and Elizabeth V. Chadwick Dressler. (U.S. Air Force)

The WASPs were not combat pilots. They tested newly-manufactured aircraft for acceptance by the military, delivered these airplanes from factories to Air Corps bases around the country, ferried aircraft across oceans, and flew transport missions.

All of these women provided a great service to their country during a time of war, but even more so to the generations of women who would follow their path.

Major Eileen M. Collins with F-4E-31-MC Phantom II, 66-0289, at the Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1990. A pilot instructor on the T-38 Talon and C-141 Starlifter, Eileen Collins graduated from Class 89B at Edwards. Accepted as an astronaut for NASA, she piloted the space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-63, Atlantis, STS 84, and commanded Columbia STS-93 and Discovery, STS-114.(U.S. Air Force)
Major Eileen M. Collins with F-4E-31-MC Phantom II, 66-0289, at the Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1990. A pilot instructor on the T-38 Talon and C-141 Starlifter, Eileen Collins graduated from Class 89B at Edwards. Accepted as an astronaut for NASA, she piloted the space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-63, Atlantis, STS 84, and commanded Columbia STS-93 and Discovery, STS-114.(U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter Interceptor pilots of the 3rd Fighter Wing, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, left to right, Major Andrea Misener, 19th FS; Captain Jammie Jamiesen, 12th FS; Major Carey Jones, 19th FS; Captain Samantha Weeks, 12th FS. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter Interceptor pilots of the 3rd Fighter Wing, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, left to right, Major Andrea Misener, 19th FS; Captain Jammie Jamiesen, 12th FS; Major Carey Jones, 19th FS; Captain Samantha Weeks, 12th FS. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman, Lead Test Pilot for the Boeing 777 and Chief Pilot, Boeing Training and Flight Services. (Boeing)
Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman, Lead Test Pilot for the Boeing 777 and Chief Pilot, Boeing Training and Flight Services. (Boeing)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 March 1910

Royal Aero club license issued to J.T.C. Moor-Brabazon, 8 March 1910. (RAF Museum)
Royal Aero Club License No. 1, issued to J.T.C. Moor-Brabazon, 8 March 1910. (RAF Museum)

8 March 1910: John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, later, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, GBE, MC, PC, was the first airplane pilot to be issued an aviator’s certificate by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom. He already held certificate number 40 of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. He was issued Certificate Number 1 in England.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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