Mary Westenra, daughter of the fifth Baron Rossmore, was born on December 1, 1890 in Rossmore Castle, Ireland. She married Sir Abraham ‘Abe’ Bailey, a wealthy South African mining magnate of British descent, in 1911. Mary volunteered to be an aviation technician when World War I began in 1914, and was stationed in Britain and France with units of the Royal Flying Corps.
She gained her pilot’s licence in 1927 and embarked on a record-breaking career:
- Became the first woman to fly across the Irish Sea
- Set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world height record of 5,268 metres in a light aircraft category
- Set the record for the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman flying 8000 miles from Croydon, South London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa and a 10,000-mile return flight.
- She won the Harmon Trophy as the world’s outstanding aviatrix in 1927 and 1928.
Mary Bailey was one of the finest women pilots and one of the most remarkable Irishwomen of the 20th century. She died on July 29, 1960, at the age of 69.
First Accredited Solo Flight by a Woman in United States
The first accredited solo flight by a woman in the United States is attributed to Bessica Raiche. On September 16th, 1910 in Hempstead Plains, NY, she made her solo flight in an airplane based on the Wright’s design, which she and her husband built in their living room. She made five flights on that day. The last flight nosed over, throwing her out of the plan. The aircraft sustained some minor damage and she was uninjured. Two weeks prior to that day, Blanche Stuart Scott, made a solo flight while under instruction with Glenn Curtiss, when the airplane became airborne due to a wind gust.
Born on April 23rd 1875 in Wisconsin, Bessica Raiche was a musician, painter, and linguist. She was also a practicing dentist. Her interest in flying was triggered, while studying in Paris, France. The Aeornautical Society honored her in October 1910 as America’s first woman aviator. She and her husband went on to build two more airplanes using light weight materials in airplane construction.
Owing to health reasons she eventually gave up flying and settled into a career in medicine as the nation’s leading specialist in obstetrics and gynecology. She died in her sleep on April 11, 1932 at her home in Newport Beach, CA.
March is Women History Month and Woman of Aviation Month.
Lights. Camera. Action!
That’s how I always remembered it.
Strobes. Transponder. Throttle.
No pounding heart, sweaty palms or shaky legs as I raced down the runway, applying a little right rudder to maintain center line, eyes glued to the airspeed indicator.
At least not yet.
Airspeed indicator needle gradually turned, as the airplane gained speed. 40, 50, and finally 60 Knots. Gently ease back the yoke and lift-off.
I was airborne.
Oh my God!
It finally sank in. I was all alone in the cockpit having just performed a take-off, for my very first solo flight. I still had to land this aircraft all by myself.
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