This Day in Women's Aviation

Today is Monday, May 22, 2017 10:16 PM

1928 - Record-setting pioneer Fiorenza de Bernardi was born in Florence, Italy, the daughter of world champion seaplane racer and aerobatics champion Colonel Mario de Bernardi. She would learn to fly in 1951, and would become Italy's first woman airline pilot (and the world's fifth) in 1967, when she was hired by Aeralpi. In 1969, she would become Italy's first woman airline captain. In 1985, she would join the International Society of Women Airlines Pilots, who would award the ISA+21 Merit Scholarship--awarded annually to a commercial pilot applicant striving to further her career--in her name.

1930 - Amy Johnson crossed nearly 1,000 miles during a leg of her history-making solo flight from England to Australia. Her fuel was almost gone, she finally sighted the island of Timor in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), but couldn’t find the airport and landed on a bumpy, grassy clearing. She met with “a horde of yelling natives, with hair flying in the wind, and knives in their hands or between their red-stained teeth” who guided her to a mission. Officials from the airport later explained that a recent brushfire had made the airport indistinguishable from the air.

1943 - While flying for the British ATA during World War II, the propeller of Mary Nicholson's Master 2 trainer broke completely off after the propeller mechanism failed. She was killed when her plane crashed into a stone barn. Mary, who served as an assistant to Jackie Cochran before joining the ATA, was the only U.S. woman killed while serving as an ATA-girl.

1988 - The first all-female DC-9 flight in the world was flown by a US Airways aircrew led by Captain Joyce Stripp with first officer Catherine Bierne, and flight attendants Patti Beebe, Jacki Becquette, and Anita Law.

2007 - Former military aircrew weapons controller Kimberly A. Ponders released her second novel, "The Last Blue Mile." As an USAF lieutenant, she qualified as an air weapons controller on the E-3 AWACS and went to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, becoming one of the first American women to fly in a combat zone. She spent the next 5 years flying missions out of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These experiences formed the basis of her first novel, "The Art of Uncontrolled Flight."

2007 - Decked out in one of the dresses she used to wear while racing, Marge Mitchell, 97, of Plainview, Texas, fulfilled her birthday wish to "go flying one more time." She departed Plainview-Hale County Airport in a Bellanca Super Viking on a complimentary flight with the owner of Rocket Aviation. Since earning her pilot’s license 60 years earlier, she accrued more than 20,000 flight hours until retiring as a sales representative for Miller Flying Service in 2002. She promoted Bellanca's wooden airplanes throughout the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. She also served as chairman of the company's board for 10 years and, from 1964 to 1976, competed in cross-country races, such as the Powder Puff Races and Sky Lady Derbies.

2010 - The Chickasaw Nation’s first feature film, "Pearl," kicked off a week-long run at the historic Circle Cinema in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The film focused on the tumultuous teen years of the late Pearl Carter Scott, who was befriended by famous aviator Wiley Post in the late 1920s. Pearl earned her license at age 13 and, by 14, was performing as a barnstormer and commercial pilot.