Tag Archives: Women in Aviation

18 July 1919

Élise Léontine Deroche poses with the airplane in which she would later be killed, at Le Crotoy, France, 18 July 1919.

18 July 1919: Élise Léontine Deroche was at Le Crotoy in northern France, co-piloting an experimental airplane, a civil variant of the Caudron G.3. The aircraft suddenly  pitched down and crashed, killing Deroche and the pilot, M. Barrault. Mme Deroche was 36 years old.

According to a notice in Flight,

“What happened is not very clear, but it would seem that the machine in which she was flying overturned during a trial flight. Baroness de la Roche was killed instantly and the pilot, Barrault, died very shortly afterwards.”

Élise Léontine Deroche, also known as the “Baroness de la Roche,” was killed instantly in an airplane crash at le Crotoy, 18 July 1919

Élisa Léontine Deroche was born 22 August 1882 at nº 61, Rue de la Verrerie, in the 4e arrondissement, Paris, France. She was the daughter of Charles François Deroche, a plumber, and Christine Calydon Gaillard Deroche. In her early life she had hoped to be a singer, dancer and actress. Mlle. Deroche used the stage name, “Raymonde de Laroche.”

Mlle. Deroche married M. Louis Léopold Thadome in Paris, 4 August 1900. They divorced 28 June 1909.

She had a romantic relationship with sculptor Ferdinand Léon Delagrange, who was also one of the earliest aviators, and it was he who inspired her to become a pilot herself. They had a son, André, born in 1909. Delagrange was killed in an airplane accident in 1910. They never married.

After four months of training at Chalons, under M. Chateu,¹ an instructor for Voison,  Mme Deroche made her first solo flight on Friday, 22 October 1909. On 8 March 1910, Élisa Léontine Deroche was the first woman to become a licensed pilot when she was issued Pilot License No. 36 by the Aéro-Club de France.

Pilot Certificate number 36 of the l’Aéro-Club de France was issued to Mme. de Laroche. (Musee de l’Air at l’Espace)

In a 30 October 1909 article about her solo flight, Flight & The Aircraft Engineer referred to Mme. Deroche as “Baroness de la Roche.” This erroneous title of nobility stayed with her in the public consciousness. Deroche participated in various air meets, and on 25 November 1913, made a non-stop, long-distance flight of four hours duration, for which she was awarded the Coupe Femina by the French magazine, Femina.

On 20 February 1915, Mme. Deroche married Jacques Vial at Meudon, Hauts de Seine, Île-de-France, France.

During World War I she was not allowed to fly so she served as a military driver.

Elise Raymonde Deroche (Smithsonian Institution)

Many sources report that Mme Deroche set two altitude records at Issy-les Moulineaux in June 1919, just weeks before her death. One, for example, is said to have been 5,150 meters (16,896 feet), 12 June 1919. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), however, did not recognize records set by women until 28 June 1929.

Élisa Léontine Deroche was buried at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris, France.

Élisa Léontine Deroche, Aviarix. (22 August 1882–18 July 1919)

¹ Sous Lieutenant Jean Pie Hyacinthe Paul Jerome Casale, Marquis de Montferato

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 July 1908

Léon Delagrange with Thérèse Peltier, Milan, 8 July 1908. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

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.

Thérèse Peltier at Issy-les-Moulineaux, 17 September 1908. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

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.

Léon Delagrange’s Voisin biplane in flight, 6 September 1908. (J. Theodoresco, Paris)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 July 1912

William Willard, at left, and Harriet Quimby, just prior to takeoff at Squantum, Massachusetts, 1 July 1912. (John F. Gray)

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

An unidentified man at the left of this photograph is carrying the body of Harriet Quimby.
An unidentified man at the left of this photograph is carrying the body of Harriet Quimby. (Detail from photograph by Leslie Jones, Boston Herald/Boston Public Library)

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.

Massachusetts Standard Certificate of Death, Harriett Quimby.

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 portrayed a fishermaiden in D.W. Griffith’s “Lines of White on a Sullen Sea,” 1911. (IMDb)

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.”

Harriet Quimby, September 1910. (Edmunds Bond/The Boston Globe)

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.

The wreck of Harriet Quimby’s Bleriot XI at Squantum, Massachussetts, 1 July 1912.
The wreck of Harriet Quimby’s Blériot XI at Squantum, Massachussetts, 1 July 1912. Earle Lewis Ovington is standing at center, and Miss Quimby’s mechanician, Monsieur Hardy, is at the right edge of the image.

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.

Miss Harriet Quimby, 1911, (Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 June 1984

Captain Emily Warner and First Officer Barbara Cook in the cockpit of Frontier Airlines' Boeing 737, Flight 244, 16 June 1984. (Captain Frank Meyer. published in Frontier News, Summer 2012, #48)
Captain Emily Warner and First Officer Barbara Cook in the cockpit of Frontier Airlines’ Boeing 737, Flight 244, 16 June 1984. (Frontier News, Summer 2012, #48)

16 June 1984: Frontier Airlines Flight 244, a Boeing 737, flies from Stapleton Airport, Denver, Colorado (DEN) to Lexington, Kentucky (LEX). In the cockpit were Captain Emily H. Warner and First Officer Barbara Cook. The cabin crew for the flight were Tim Griffin, Mark Becker and Ashley McQueen.

The Chicago Tribune reported:

Women pilot flight into airline history

DENVERFrontier Airlines teamed the first woman pilot hired by a major airline with a woman copilot Saturday for a flight from Denver to Lexington, Ky., in what one official said was the first all-female crew in commercial airline history. A spokesman for Denver-based Frontier official said the airline did nothing special to bring Capt. Emily Warner of Denver together with First Officer Barbara Cook of Denver. “That’s just the way the rotation came up,” he said. Warner, who became the first woman hired by a major airline when she joined Frontier in 1973, said of the flight: “I feel good about it. I figured I’d be flying with a gal one of these days.”

Chicago Tribune, Vol. 130, No. 109, Sunday 17 June 1984, Section 1, Page 17 at Column 1

[Note: First Officer Turi Widerøe made her first flight as a commercial airline pilot for the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), 30 April 1969. —TDiA]

A Frontier Airlines Boeing 737-200, circa 1984. This is the same type airliner flown by Captain Warner and First Officer Cook, 16 June 1984. (Eduard Marmet)
A Frontier Airlines Boeing 737-200, N7382F, circa 1984. This is the same type airliner flown by Captain Warner and First Officer Cook, 16 June 1984. (Eduard Marmet)

Emily Hanrahan Howell Warner was hired by Frontier Airlines as a second officer in 1973, and is considered to be the first woman to be hired as a pilot for a U.S. commercial airline. After her first revenue flight, she received a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers from Captain Turi Widerøe of Scandanavian Airlines System (SAS), who was the world’s first woman airline captain. In 1976, Emily Warner was promoted to captain, the first woman to hold that rank with an American airline.

Second Officer Emily Warner. (Frontier Airlines)
Second Officer Emily Warner. (Frontier Airlines)
First Officer Emily Warner. (Frontier Airlines)
First Officer Emily Warner. (Frontier Airlines)
Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 08.07.57
Captain Emily Warner.

The Boeing 737-200 series was a short- to medium-range, narrow body, twin-engine civil transports. The -200 first flew 8 August 1967. It had a flight crew of two and could carry a maximum of 136 passengers.

The 737-200 is 100 feet, 2 inches (30.531 meters) long with a wingspan of 93 feet, 0 inches (28.346 meters) and overall height of 36 feet, 10 inches (11.227 meters). Flight 243’s actual takeoff weight was 93,133 pounds (42,224 kilograms). (Its maximum certificated takeoff weight was 100,000 pounds (45,359 kilograms).

The airliner was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9A low-bypass turbofan engines producing 14,500 pounds of thrust, each. The 737-200 had a cruise speed of 0.74 Mach (489 miles per hour, 787 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 0.82 Mach (542 miles per hour/872 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).

1,010 Boeing 737–200s were built. The last one in service with an American airline was retired 21 March 2008.

UPDATE: On 30 December 1977, Captain Emilie Jones and First Officer Lynn Ripplemeyer of Air Illinois, a commuter airline based at Carbondale, Illinois, flew a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter on six scheduled flights. In September 1983, Captain Ripplemeyer and First Officer Beverly Himelfarb of People Express Airlines flew a Boeing 737 from Newark, New Jersey, to Syracuse, New York. In 1984, Captain Ripplemeyer was the first woman to command a Boeing 747 on a transoceanic route.

UPDATE 2: On 10 July 1982, Captain Cheryl Faye Peters and First Officer Rebecca Rose Schroeder of Piedmont Airlines, flew a scheduled flight aboard a Boeing 737. The cabin crew were Paula Lanier, Dolly Wenat and Cindy Perry.

First Office Lynn Ripplemeyer and Captain Emilie Jones, Air Illinois.
Air Illinois de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1930

Amy Johnson lands her de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, G-AAAH, “Jason,” at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, 24 May 1930. (Fox Photo/Getty Images)

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.

Amy Johnson was awarded a prize of 10,000 by the Daily Mail for her flight. (DailyMail.com)
Amy Johnson was awarded a prize of £10,000 by the Daily Mail for her flight. (DailyMail.com)

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.

Route of Amy Johnson’s flight to Australia, 5–24 May 1930. (FLIGHT, 30 May 1930, No. 1118, Vol. XXII, No. 22, at Page 578.)

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.”

Amy Johnson with her DH.60 Gipsy Moth at Calcutta, May 1930. (DailMail.com)
Amy Johnson with her DH.60 Gipsy Moth at Calcutta, 12 May 1930. (DailyMail.com)

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.

Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.
Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.

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.

Amy Johnson’s de Havilland DH.60G G-AAAH. (Mirrorpix)

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).

De Havilland DH.60 Moth three-view illustration with dimensions. (FLIGHT, 5 March 1925, Page 127)

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.

Amy Johnson's de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London.
Amy Johnson’s de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London. (Science Museum)

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.

Amy Johnson (National Library of Australia nla.obj-162255730)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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