7 Amazing Pioneers of Female Aviation ...

Neecey

We need to brace ourselves for the fact that not all pioneers of female aviation have happy stories. No surprise really because these amazing women were doing amazing things at a time when aviation was still a fledgling science. People were still afraid of motor cars let alone airplanes yet these women climbed fearlessly into planes to bring us incredible stories. And then as time moved on, women flew planes during wartime (in the Air Transport Auxiliary) and then went into space and now they fly jumbo jets around the world. I think pioneers of female aviation are to be admired – let’s pay homage to them.

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1

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova One of my favorite trivia questions used to be “Who was the first woman in space”. Valentina Tereshkova is such a romantic sounding name, and to have the honor of being exactly that, the first woman in space, is such an accolade. Valentina worked in a Soviet textile factory when she was chosen from 400 applicants to be the first woman in space. I find it really interesting that, unlike in so many spheres of life, pioneers of female aviation didn’t have to wait decades or even centuries to follow men. Valentina Tereshkova went into space aboard the Vostock 6 on June 16, 1963 just 2 years after Yuri Gagarin made his historical inaugural manned space flight, on April 12, 1961.

2

Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson Amy is one of the famous female aviators whose story ends unhappily. Amy Johnson was a British lady who after earning her pilot license and ground engineer’s license in 1929 started flying long distance. Often accompanied by her husband – Jim Mollinson - as co-pilot, Amy set a number of long distance flight records during the 1930s. Her most memorable is surely being the first woman to fly from the UK to Australia – solo. She was also the first to fly from London to Moscow, but it wasn’t just distance where her success came. Amy Johnson also set speed records for flying between the UK and Japan and the UK and South Africa. It was natural progression that when war came in 1939, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary which was responsible for non-combat operations, flying planes around the country to where they needed to be. Amy’s adventures came to an end when she had to ditch her plane and bail out somewhere over the Thames Estuary. Her body was never found and stories persist that she was on a secret mission at the time.

3

Sabiha Gokcen

Sabiha Gokcen While on the subject of women in wartime, allow me to introduce to you Sabiha Gokcen – the first woman ever to fly a plane as a combat pilot. Sabiha was the first woman in Turkey to earn a pilot license, having learned to fly at the civilian aviation school Turk Kusu before going to the USSR for advanced training. Her time in combat was short – namely the Dersim Rebellion in 1937 where she was a bomber pilot in the Eskisehir First Aircraft Regiment. After the combat ended, Sabiha became the senior instructor at the very school that had taught her to fly. Istanbul’s airport is named for her.

4

Raymonde De Laroche

Raymonde De Laroche This lady can definitely lay claim to being one of the pioneers of female aviation. Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman in the world to gain a pilot license. When receiving her license on 8th March 1910, she was actually the 36th pilot to be registered by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Raymonde was another woman who took to the skies setting records and winning races. She held two world records in her time: one for reaching an altitude of 15,700 feet and the other for the longest flight by a woman. Sadly, Raymonde de Laroche lost her life when an airplane she was piloting on an experimental flight crashed on landing on July 8th, 1919.

5

Harriet Quimby

Harriet Quimby If you are wondering who was the first American woman to earn a pilot license, it was Harriet Quimby. She had a short life as a pilot. She qualified in August 1911 but was killed during an air show in Massachusetts on 1st July 1912. During her short flying career however, she enjoyed minor celebrity status, inspiring other pioneers of female aviation to get behind the controls. She also became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Unfortunately, her great achievement went by without much attention because she made her historic flight on 16th April, 1912, the day after the Titanic sunk. Not many column inches available for pioneering female pilots with that tragic news making headlines.

6

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman There were plenty of barriers for African American women in the 1920s so we have to give a big shout out to Elizabeth Coleman. “Bessie” became the first African American woman to gain a pilot license. Sadly, no school in the USA would take her as a student so she learned French, went to Paris and learned to fly in France. After she gained her license on 15th June 1921, she returned to the USA to earn her living in air shows, flying demonstrations and performing stunts. Between times she worked toward Civil Rights and fought against racial barriers and segregation. Elizabeth Coleman was killed in an air crash in 1926.

7

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart Would any list of famous female aviators be complete without Amelia Earhart? After she became the 16th woman ever to attain a pilot license (on 15th May, 1923), Amelia became one of the most famous pilots of all time. After having been the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger, she went on to be the first woman to fly across North America and then became famous as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic – solo and non-stop. Her ultimate aim was to circumnavigate the globe. Unfortunately her attempt remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century. Earhart’s plane disappeared close to the central Pacific's Howland Island and her body was never found.

In a year when we are commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War and the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, I feel I should make mention of the women who so ably supported the allied air forces. US Women Air Force Service Pilots and UK Women’s Auxiliary Air Force did amazing jobs flying transport planes, towing target planes and ferrying planes between factories and air bases. Thank you ladies – you were incredible!

Do you dream of getting a pilot license?

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This would make a good countdown video

Great read.

DR..Kalpana Chawla..also...

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