This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Wednesday, February 20, 2019 7:37 PM

1911 - J.J. Hammond flew his wife aboard a Bristol Boxkite in Melbourne, Australia, making her the first woman in the country to fly in controlled powered flight.

1924 - Claire Walters, 85, who ran her flight school for 27 years in Santa Monica and co-founded the annual Palms to Pines Air Race for women, died in Los Angeles. In 1951, she won the Powder Puff Derby--a transcontinental air race for women that she helped re-establish in the late 1940s. On the way home from that race, she married one of her students, a future commercial pilot.

1955 - On her 80th birthday, French aviatrix pioneer and decorated athlete Marie Marvingt was flown over Nancy, France by a U.S. Air Force officer from Toul Rosieres Air Base in an F-101 Voodoo fighter jet and reputedly broke the sound barrier. Later that year, she would earn her helicopter pilot's license. Six years later, she would cycle from Nancy to Paris.

1972 - President Nixon departed the U.S. for a historic visit to the People's Republic of China. Among the journalists selected to accompany him were three women, one of whom was aviatrix Fay Gillis Wells, a charter member and founder of The Ninety-Nines, the international organization of licensed women pilots, which started in 1929.

2006 - A special ceremony at the Long Beach Airport celebrated two women pilots. One of its newly purchased fire-fighting engines was named "Pioneer" in honor of Gladys O'Donnell. The most notable of early Long Beach women aviators--who placed 2nd in the first Women's Air Derby in 1929, and won the race in 1930--was known as the "flying housewife." The other fire-fighting engine was named "Patriot" in honor of Barbara Erickson London, one of the first female pilots to ferry planes from aircraft plants to combat areas during World War II. She was the only woman pilot awarded the Air Medal for her wartime service with the WASP.

2009 - Air Force Lt Col Brenda Cartier became the first female flying squadron commander in the AF Special Operations Command during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field in Florida. She assumed command of the 4th Special Operations Squadron, which employed the AC-130U “Spooky” gunship.