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MANAGEMENT IN AVIATION HISTORY BENCH MARKS


Leſt : Harriet Quimby became America’s first licensed female pilot in 1911 at NY. She enjoyed owning and driving automobiles and encouraged women to learn how to do their own maintenance. When she drove to the aerodrome near Dover to make the first solo crossing of the English Channel by a woman in 1912, she borrowed her host’s car to get there. She once commented that she preferred flying because there were no policemen to give her a speeding ticket. Quimby flew only Bleriot-type monoplanes. Right: Exhibition flier Blanche Stuart Scott took lessons from Glenn Curtiss in 1910 and soloed in her “pusher” biplane but was not licensed. She is shown here wearing pants stuff ed with insulation to keep her warm in the cold upper air.


feet. Advertisements blared, “Watch this daring woman duplicate all the fl ying tricks of [French aviator] Paulhan.” In 1913, her act was described as “nerve-tingling, spine- chilling, thrill-producing” and accordingly, “risky.” One source claims she broke 41 bones in various crashes, while earning $5,000 [2018 = $124,500] per week to fl y. Scott was at the controls of her Curtiss pusher over the airfi eld when she watched Quimby fall to her death. The deaths of Clark, Quimby and several male fl iers aff ected her view of exhibition fl ying. She quit fl ying in 1916 because she felt that spectators came in hopes of watching her crash. She enjoyed several honors for her early fl ying and died at age 86.


The fourth licensed American female aviator was


Katherine Stinson [FAI No. 148]. She trained in Chicago during 1912 and at the time was the only licensed aviatrix to fl y a Wright-type aircraft. One historian notes that, “to keep up with the times, she switched to a more acrobatic tractor machine.” She became a sensation as a stunt fl ier, independent of organized fl ying teams, appearing in the U.S., Canada, China and Japan. She pushed her aircraft to make steep dives, circular loops and other crowd-pleasing stunts. She often broke existing distance records and made fund-raising fl ights for charitable causes. Youthful looking with ropes of long curls, she became known as the “Flying Schoolgirl” and gave her stunts names such as the “Dippy Twist.” She often fl ew at night, using fl ares to trace her movements. She and her siblings operated a fl ying school in Texas and trained military pilots prior to WWI. Stinson’s girlish charm belied her nerves of steel. She quit fl ying to pursue careers in architecture and engineering and died at age 86.


32 DOMmagazine.com | mar 2018


Ruth Law reportedly took her fi rst fl ying lesson from the school run by Harry Atwood in Massachusetts on the same day she attended the air meet that claimed Quimby’s life. Undaunted, she earned her license and bought a Wright aircraft. One historian noted that Law “decided she needed a superior aircraft, especially for acrobatics, and invested in a Curtiss headless pusher.” She was soon fl ying her biplane in dizzying circles over frozen Keuka Lake in New York. She went on to make exhibition fl ights, which included loops, in the U.S., China, Japan and the Philippines. She formed the Ruth Law Flying Circus with help from her husband, Charles Oliver. Law made record- breaking long distance fl ights and contributed as an aviator for the American Red Cross and other non-military organizations during WWI. She retired from fl ying in 1922 and lived to be 83. Before American women gained the right to vote in 1920 they were already fl ying the same aircraft as men. Today’s female airshow aerobatic performers (such as Patty Wagstaff and Julie E. Clark) are direct descendants of the Pioneer Exhibition Era. However, most women pilots simply enjoy punching holes in the clouds — where, as Quimby once exulted, there were no policemen to give her a speeding ticket.


Giacinta Bradley Koontz is an aviation historian, magazine columnist and author who has received the DAR History Medal and honorable mention from the New York Book Festival. She has appeared on the History Channel and in PBS documentaries.


For more information, visit www.GiaBKoontz.com.


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