This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Sunday, March 24, 2019 2:04 PM

1907 - Janet Harmon Bragg was born in Griffin, Georgia. Despite completing flight training in Tuskegee, Alabama as part of the Civilian Pilot Training program in 1942, she would be denied her commercial certificate. Her White examiner would explain, "Well, I tell you Chief, she gave me a ride I'll put up with any of your flight instructors. I've never given a colored girl a commercial pilot's license, I don't intend to now." Later that year in Chicago, she would become the first Black woman issued a commercial flight certificate.

1924 - Aerialist Mable Cody, 20--who organized, promoted and starred in the Mable Cody Flying Circus--fell from an altitude of 50 feet at Pablo Beach, Florida. She was performing her signature stunt--an auto-to-plane transfer--resulting in a dislocated shoulder and broken forearm. Though the circus disbanded shortly after her accident, Mabel joined another one after she recovered.

1944 - Senators Joseph Hill of Alabama and Harold Burton of Ohio submitted a resolution calling for the appointment of female pilots and aviation cadets into the Army Air Forces. Two months later, a “Time” magazine article titled “Unnecessary and Undesirable” would call the WASP experiment expensive, and claim that men could have been trained more quickly.

1960 - Dorothy Rice Sims, who learned to fly at the Wright School in Mineola, New York in 1916, passed away of a heart attack while in Cairo, Egypt. She is credited with being the first woman to ride a motorcycle as well as one of the first to navigate a plane. A painter, sculptress, and writer as well as a flyer, she was also one of the country's best known bridge players. Her book, "Curioser and Curioser," published in 1940, described her life and experience in a most entertaining manner.

1996 - Shaifali Choudhary, one of the first woman chopper pilots in the Indian Air Force, lost her life while trying to save her colleagues from drowning after crashing in the Brahmaputra. An exhausted Shaifali, with little stamina to save her life after struggling with violent waves, was swept away by a strong current only 5 feet from shore. She was honored posthumously by the President of India for her valiant effort.

2001 - Four aviation pioneers--Mary Barr, Ann Baumgartner Carl, Elizabeth (Betty) Pfister, and Elinor Smith--were inducted into the International Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame, established in 1992 to honor women who have made significant contributions as aviation record setters, pioneers, or innovators. At the time, 37 individuals and four aviation groups had been inducted since the program's inception.