This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Sunday, February 17, 2019 2:34 PM

1920 - Laura Bromwell became the first woman to make a commercial flight over New York City. She flew a Curtiss Oriole with "FLY HIGH! with LOCKLEAR in The Great Air Robbery" painted on its side and dropped leaflets over the theater district announcing the New York opening of this Universal motion picture.

1930 - Five-foot, three-inch, 118-pound Faye "Rusty" Cox Rogers made her first parachute jump from an Alexander Eaglerock in Vernon, Texas With less than an hour's worth of training--knowing little more than to count to three and pull the rip cord. She would quickly become known as the "famous girl chute jumper" at air circuses throughout the Southwest. By the end of the year, she would hold the world altitude record (18,256 feet) and the world endurance record for women (four jumps in 3 hours). In 1937, she would achieve 22 jumps in 7 hours. During World War II, she would hold an Airman's Certificate as a parachute rigger and ground instructor for parachutes, and operate schools to train parachute riggers for the Army Air Force. Her career would climax with her 530th jump in Denver in 1946.

1930 - Ellen Guinivere (Gwen) Kotter, the first woman from Utah to receive a commercial pilot license, qualified for her third class glider license (No. 53) with a 58-second flight at La Jolla, California. She followed this with a flight to qualify for a second class glider license (No. 23), but conditions weren't right that day for an attempt at a first class glider license. Gwen taught education for more than 40 years at San Diego State University and retired in 1969 as an associate professor.

1934 - The Michigan chapter of The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, was formed at the Gratiot Airport in Roseville, Michigan. Among the eight women in attendance was Mary Von Mach, a charter member of the national organization and veteran of several transcontinental air races, including the original 1929 “Powder Puff Derby” and the Bendix Derby, in which both women and men competed.

1965 - Joan Merriam Smith, 28, a commercial pilot with over 9,000 flight hours, was killed in an aircraft accident in Wrightwood, California. Less than a year earlier, she gained fame with a round-the-world flight along the equator that lasted 54 days. She was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in a twin-engine--a Piper Apache.

1989 - Deanna Brasseur flew her first solo in the CF-18 Hornet, an event she would d describe as the highlight and ultimate goal of her distinguished 21-year career in the Canadian Air Force. She would be one of only two women in the world to fly the sophisticated, powerful, world-class jet fighter plane. Dee would retire from the military as a major with 2,500 flight hours.

1996 - Hildegarde Ferrera, 99, became the oldest person to parachute out of a plane. She made a tandem jump with a Skydive Hawaii instructor, but unfortunately wrenched her neck on leaping from the plane. She was hospitalized after landing, and died of complications 15 days later.

2007 - The Delhi International Airport Limited inaugurated an exhibition of the aviation history of India’s capital. It included a tribute to Sarla Sharma Thakral who, in 1936, became India’s first woman pilot at age 21. After accumulating over 1,000 flight hours by age 24, she would abandon her plans to become a commercial pilot when her pilot husband died in a plane crash in 1939.

2007 - Veteran air racer Joan Hrubec died. After learning to fly at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport in a flight training program in junior college, Joan bought her first plane in 1955 with earnings from a manufacturing job where she worked until retirement in the 1980s. Once the youngest member of The Ninety-Nines, she competed in air races and the Powder Puff Derbies. Later she served as director of the International Women’s Air & Space Museum, leading efforts to move it from Dayton to Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport terminal.

2007 - Iris Cummings Critchell was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame. A member of the U.S. Olympic swim team in Berlin in 1936, she was a member of the first Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of Southern California. She joined the second WASP class recruited by Jacqueline Cochran for Army flight training in Houston, earning her wings in May 1943. As a WASP member, Iris flew 18 types of military aircraft as pilot in command, including the A-24, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51, C-47, A-20, B-25, P-38, and P-61. After the war, she developed the first aviation curriculum for USC’s College of Aeronautics, and taught primary, instrument, commercial, and instructor courses as well as all the instrument flight instruction in war-surplus Vultee BT-13 trainers.

2008 - Mae Jemison was the featured speaker for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. The first African-American woman astronaut carried the sorority's banner on her 1992 shuttle flight, and her space suit is a part of the sorority's national traveling Centennial Exhibit. Mae was an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, founded in 1908 at Howard University to address social issues and promote scholarship among African-American women.

2010 - A Bolivian airline announced it would give free flights to a child born on one of its airliners 3 days earlier. At 24,000 feet enroute to La Paz, doctor and nurse passengers helped deliver the baby girl who arrived 2 weeks premature. In addition to free flights until age 21, Tami--named in honor of the airline, Transportes Aereos Militares--would also get a scholarship through high school at a Bolivian Air Force school.

2010 - Linda Scully, president and chief instructor of Aero Safety Training of Lincoln Park, New Jersey, was announced as a recipient of the Make Mine a Million $ Business award in Houston. She started the company in 1993 with only a Cessna Aerobat taildragger, offering spin awareness and tailwheel transition courses. The ATP and Master Gold Seal Instructor grew her business to become a full-service FAA Part 141 flight school.