December 13, 1934 Central Airlines, later part of United Airlines, hired pilot Helen Richey, the first woman to fly for a commercial passenger airline. Male pilots harassed Richey and refused to allow her to join the pilots’ union, eventually forcing her to resign. Richey accomplished many other important aviation firsts, including first woman to fly airmail. Along with co-pilot Frances Marcalis she achieved a ten day in-air endurance record.
December 12, 1904 Barnstorming pilot Katherine Sui Fun Cheung was born in Canton, China. At age 17, Cheung moved to the United States to live with her father. She soon began flying lessons and became the first Chinese American woman licensed to fly. Cheung traveled the country performing complicated aerobatic maneuvers at fairs and air shows. “What’s the point of flying a plane if you can’t have fun doing it?”she said.
December 11, 1933 Texas Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson proclaimed December 11 “National” Aviation Day in honor of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Ferguson, Texas’s first female governor, had never flown in a plane.
December 10, 2006 Astronaut Sunita Williams set off on board space shuttle Discovery to join the Expedition 14 crew on the International Space Station. She returned to earth on June 22, 2007, after 195 days the longest space flight by a woman. In orbit Williams donated her ponytail to Locks of Love. Astronaut Joan Higginbotham cut Williams hair and brought it back to earth with the STS-116 crew.
December 9, 1974 The National Transportation Safety Board hired Wally Funk as an Air Safety Investigator, the first woman to hold the job. With over 17,000 hours of flight time, Funk had aspired to be an astronaut and was one of the “Mercury 13”, chronicled by Tanya Lee Stone in ALMOST ASTRONAUTS.
December 8, 1931 After recovering from a sudden spinning dive, Nancy Hopkins Tier earned her commercial transport license. Tier was a charter member of the Ninety Nines and became the president of the International Women’s Air and Space Museum.
December 7, 1910 Motor racer Jeanne Herveau earned her pilots license. In 1911 she opened an all female flying school but it failed to attract students. After setting a distance record of 63 miles Herveau retired from aviation.
December 6, 1935 TWA graduated its first class of air hostesses- trained to identify landmarks along the route, operate the aircraft heat system, and comfort passengers. Chief hostess Ruth Rhodes said “Women haven’t enough adventure in their lives. Flying through the air high above the earth, racing against time, absorbing the knowledge that after all, the world is one small place, was the most romantic thing a woman could do.”
December 5, 1909 Florence Mary Taylor became the first Australian woman to fly a heavier than air machine when she piloted a glider near Sydney before a crowd of over one hundred. Taylor was also the first woman architect in Australia and became famous as the publisher of many building and design magazines. It was said that she could draft a house in the time it took others to sharpen a pencil.
December 4, 2006 Wing Commander Linda Corbould delivered the Royal Australian Air Force’s first C-17 Globemaster III. Corbould joined the Air Force in 1981, serving as an air traffic controller until 1990 when women were allowed to train as pilots.