Tag Archives: Women in Aviation

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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18 July 1919

Élise Léontine Deroche (Smithsonian Institution)
Élise Léontine Deroche poses with the airplane in which she would later be killed, at Le Crotoy, France, 18 July 1919. (Bettman/CORBIS)

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.

After four months of training under M. Chateu, an instructor for Voison, at Chalons, she 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 #36 by the Aéro-Club de France.

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 a plumber, who in her early life hoped to be a singer, dancer and actress. She used the stage name, “Raymonde de Laroche.” 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.

In a 30 October 1909 article about her solo flight, Flight 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.

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

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.

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

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 July 1908

Léon Delagrange with Thérèse Peltier, Milan, 8 July 1908. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Léon Delagrange with Thérèse Peltier, Milan, 8 July 1908. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Thérèse Peltier at Issy-les-Moulineaux, 17 September 1908. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Thérèse Peltier at Issy-les-Moulineaux, 17 September 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.

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)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 July 1927

The Honorable Mary Bailey DBE (1890–1960) (Monash University)

5 July 1927: Less than one year after learning to fly an airplane, Lady Bailey, with Mrs. Geoffrey de Havilland (the former Miss Louise Thomas) as a passenger, took off from the de Havilland airfield at Stag Lane, Edgeware, London, England, and climbed to an altitude of 5,268 meters (17,283 feet) setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for multi-place light aircraft.¹ (Mrs. de Havilland is listed as “crew” in the FAI record.)

Lady Bailey was flying Captain Geoffrey de Havilland’s personal airplane, a DH.60X Moth, construction number 276, registration G-EBQH.

de havilland DH.60X Hermes Moth G-EBWD, the same type airplane flown by Lady Bailey. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
de havilland DH.60X Hermes Moth G-EBWD, the same type airplane flown by Lady Bailey. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph below.) (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Lady Bailey was born Mary Westenra, daughter of the 5th Baron Rossmore. She married Sir Abe Bailey at the age of 20. Soon after becoming a licensed pilot in early 1927 (Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate 8067), she flew across the Irish Sea, the first woman to do so. After her World Record altitude flight, she set several long distance solo flight records, including an 8,000-mile  (12,875 kilometers)flight from Croydon, South London to Cape Town, South Africa with a DH.60 Cirrus II Moth, G-EBSF, and an 10,000-mile (16,093 kilometers) return flight made with another DH.60 (after G-EBSF was damaged). These were the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman to that time.

Lady Bailey was twice awarded the Harmon Trophy (1927, 1928). In 1930, she was invested Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. During World War II, The Hon. Dame Mary Bailey, DBE, served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the rank Section Officer, equivalent to a Royal Air Force sergeant.

Lady Mary died 29 July 1960 at the age of 70.

G-EBQH was a prototype for the de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus II Moth, and was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 304.66-cubic-inch-displacement (4.993 liter) A.D.C. Cirrus Mark II four-cylinder vertical inline engine. This was a right-hand tractor, direct-drive, overhead-valve engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. It had a normal power rating of 75 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. and a maximum power rating of 80 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The Cirrus Mk.II was 3 feet, 9.3 inches (1.151 meters) long, 1 foot, 7 inches wide (0.483 meters) and 2 feet, 11.6 inches (0.904 meters) high. It weighed 280 pounds (127 kilograms).

G-EBQH was used as a factory demonstrator and test aircraft. The DH.60X crashed in February 1928 but was rebuilt and later sold. It was flown in the King’s Cup Air Races of 1927, 1928 and 1929 by Alan S. Butler, the chairman of de Havilland. The prototype was modified to a single-place configuration with a Cirrus Mark III engine, and was known as the Moth Special. In the 1929 race, it set the fastest time for a light aircraft.

Records indicate that G-EBQH changed ownership a number of times. Its Certificate of Airworthiness expired in 1937 and its status is not known.

A de Havilland DH.60X Moth G-EBWD at Naval Air Day at Shuttleworth, 2 June 2002. This airplane is similar to the DH.60X that Lady Bailey flew to her FAI altitude record. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph above).

¹ FAI Record File Number 8221

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 July 1912

Harriet Quimby
Harriet Quimby and her Blériot XI. (Library of Congress)

1 July 1912: While flying her new Blériot XI, a two-place, single-engine monoplane, at the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachussetts, Harriet Quimby and her passenger, William A. P. Willard, 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 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 seat belts. 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 second daughter of William F. Quimby, a farmer, and Ursula M. Cook Quimby. She lived in San Francisco, California, with her parents, for many years. There, she worked as an actress, and then a magazine writer. Quimby also wrote a number of screenplays for early Hollywood movies.

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)

Quimby was well-known throughout the United States and Europe, and she wore a purple 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.

The wreck of Harriet Quimby’s Bleriot XI at Squantum, Massachussetts, 1 July 1912.
The wreck of Harriet Quimby’s Bleriot XI at Squantum, Massachussetts, 1 July 1912.

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.

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

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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