365 Female Flying Feats

December 2, 1916 President Woodrow Wilson honored Ruth Law at a dinner celebrating her record breaking flight from Chicago to New York. Law’s plane was underpowered and ran out of fuel before she made it to her destination in New York City, but manufacturer Glenn Curtiss had refused to sell her a stronger craft because he believed women should not fly.
December 1, 1939 Pauline Gower founded the women’s division of the British Air Transport Auxiliary and became the first woman to fly a Royal Air Force plane. Gower’s first task was to recruit other woman pilots. By January she’d signed up ballerina Rona Rees and hockey player Mona Friedlander.
November 30, 1912 Romanian 15 year old Rayna Kasabova flew solo. One month before, on October 30, she had dropped leaflets over Adrianpole from a plane flown by Stefan Kalinov, becoming the first woman to take part in a military flight. She joined the Bulgarian Air Force and took part in the first Balkan War. The Kasabova Glacier is named after Rayna Kasabova.

November 29, 1985 An all female crew, led by Captain Saudamini Deshmukh, flew an Indian Airlines Fokker F-25 Friendship. It was the first time the popular plane, introduced in 1955, had been flown and attended exclusively by women. Deshmukh is credited with many other “firsts” including first to captain an all woman Airbus crew and first woman Deputy General Manager of Air India.

November 28, 1951 Astronaut and teacher Barbara Morgan was born. Morgan was selected as the backup candidate in NASA’s Teachers In Space program and trained with Christa McAullife. After the Challenger disaster Morgan returned to Idaho to teach second and third grade, but in 1988 NASA called on her to become a full time astronaut. In 2007 she flew into space as a member of the STS-118 crew. Morgan’s words “Reach for your dreams … the sky is no limit.” are etched into the wall of the Walt Disney World Mission: Space exhibit.

November 27, 1929 Elinor Smith and Bobbi Trout took off in a Sunbeam biplane to become the first women to refuel in mid-air. With Elinor flying the plane and Bobbi operating the gas hose, they intended to stay in the air for over 100 hours. Unfortunately, the fuel plane, a rickety Curtiss Pigeon, lost altitude and could not keep up. At the 36 hour mark the Pigeon’s engine failed completely. Elinor kept the Sunbeam aloft for another six and a half hours until its tank was completely dry and set the woman’s refueling endurance record at 42 1/2 hours.

November 25, 1910 Helene Dutrieu became the fourth licensed female pilot. Known as “Lady Hawk” because of her daring, she began setting altitude records soon after her first solo flight, but the FAI refused to recognize her early records because she was female. She beat male pilots in aviation competitions and narrowly escaped death at least twice. The press was scandalized when Dutrieu revealed she did not wear a corset while flying.

November 23, 1977 President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to grant veteran status to the women who served in the WASP. The Women’s Airforce Service Pilots was established during World War II to fly non-combat missions within the United States however they did not receive the same pay or benefits as male pilots. On July 1, 2009 President Barack Obama presented the WASP with the Congressional Gold Medal.

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