This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Wednesday, August 15, 2018 4:05 PM

1811 - Sophie Blanchard, a French aeronaut and the wife of ballooning pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard, performed for Napoleon's entertainment at the Fete de l'Emperor in Milan. She was the world’s first female balloon pilot and the first woman to work as a professional balloonist.

1886 - Aerialist and barnstormer Mable Cody was born. She would organize and star in the Mable Cody Flying Circus in the early 1920s, and is considered the first woman to leap from a speeding car to a flying airplane. Although no relation to showman Buffalo Bill Cody, her publicist claimed she was his niece.

1912 - Countess Lilly Steinschneider, 21, received the fourth pilot license issued by the flying school established in Wienerneustadt, becoming the first woman pilot of Hungary and of the Austrio-Hungarian Monarchy. Having decided to become a pilot 2 years earlier at the international aviation contest in Budapest, she would immediately be hired by an Austrian aviation firm, taking part in various domestic and Austrian aviation contests and parades. She would quit aviation after marrying in 1914.

1927 - Gladys Roy, 25, a barnstormer who made a name for herself by dancing the Charleston on the upper wing of a plane, died when she walked into the spinning propeller of a plane that was sitting on the ground. The parachute jumper and wing-walker performed mostly in the Minneapolis area but also did stunt work and movies in Los Angeles.

1932 - Lores Bonney set out on her 8,200-mile around-Australia flight--the first by a woman. On landing at a remote outback cattle station for fuel, she would recall, "I was met by two bush cockies [ranchers] complete with grass stalks hanging from their mouths. They slowly looked me up and down, and one drawled 'Yer know mate, can't be much to this flying business, if a woman can do it.' I gave him a pitying smile." She would complete the flight in 95 flight hours over 6 weeks, overcoming a landing gear collapse, a wing spar fractured by turbulence, a forced landing caused by a disintegrated piston, and a wingtip hit mid-air by an airplane photo-shooting her final leg. The press would refer to her as "the never-give-up airwoman."

1935 - Famed pilot Wiley Post was killed in a plane crash in Alaska. Among many mourning the loss would be Fay Gillis Wells, a founder of The Ninety-Nines and journalist on assignment in Russia. After she supervised Post’s refueling in Siberia, contributing to his world-record flight around the world, she was invited to accompany him on another record attempt. Declining his invitation in favor of honeymooning in Africa, Post instead recruited the world-famous humorist, Will Rogers, who also died on the ill-fated flight.

2008 - The Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) reported that Arpinder Kaur, 28, of San Antonio, Texas became the first turbaned pilot hired by a commercial airline in the U.S. Five months after resolving the issue of wearing her dastaar on the job, Arpinder was officially hired by American Airlines as a First Officer. She finished her pilot training program in June and then flew Embraer Jets for American Eagle, AA's regional airline based out of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

2009 - Organizers of the Palms to Pines competition--a single-engine race for women pilots--celebrated the 40th anniversary of the race that begins in Santa Monica, California and ends in Bend, Oregon. The longest-running women's airplane race in the U.S., it was first organized by the Los Angeles Palms chapter of The Ninety-Nines in 1969.