March 17, 1929 At the California-based Oakland Municipal Airport (now Oakland International Airport), 23-year-old Ira Louise McPhetridge Thaden completed a plane flight in which she set a new women’s endurance record for staying airborne. She brought her Travel Air biplane back down onto the airfield 22 hours, three minutes, and 12 seconds after flying from there […]Women in Transportation History: Louise Thaden, Pilot — Transportation History
IN THE 1920s, when civilian aviation was organizing itself and aviators were setting benchmark upon benchmark, air races were a popular spectator sport. The All Women’s Air Derby, as it was known officially, drew crowds to see and meet record setters, nonconformists, and all bands between. At the extremes flew unassuming Amelia Earhart, a demure daredevil from Atchison, Kansas, and bohemian Florence “Pancho” Barnes, a Union Army balloonist’s granddaughter who declared, “Flying makes me feel like a sex maniac in a whorehouse with a stack of $20 bills.” Endurance flier Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout was known for flying by night—and living to tell the tale. Ruth Elder financed flying lessons with her beauty contest winnings. Feminist Opal Kunz’s husband, George, was chief mineralogist at Tiffany’s and well able to keep her in planes. Blanche Noyes flew for the air mail service. Stylish Alabamian Ruth Elder had failed in 1927 to become the first woman to fly from Long Island to Paris, France (she was forced to ditch in the Atlantic), but the attempt had earned her dinner at the White House and a Manhattan ticker tape parade. These and fellow competitors—pint-size Vera Dawn Walker, banker’s daughter Neva Paris, test pilot’s wife Claire Mae Fahy, and more—took off from Clover Field—now Santa Monica, California, Municipal Airport—on August 19, 1929, aiming to log the fewest air hours reaching Cleveland, Ohio. That nine-day journey killed one racer, made the survivors famous, and signaled American women’s full-fledged entry into aviation.
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In the spirit of the female African-American mathematicians whose efforts to strengthen and advance the U.S. space program despite discrimination are depicted in the movie Hidden Figures, Raye Jean Jordan Montague played an important if often overlooked pioneering role when it came to military seacraft. Montague, who was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1935, […]
Aviation pioneer Neta Snook Southern was born in the city of Mount Carroll Illinois, in 1896. While best known for teaching Amelia Earhart how to fly, Southern also left behind a legacy of several other noteworthy aviation achievements. Southern graduated from Shimer School (now Shimer College) in Chicago in 1912. Three years later, she enrolled […]
You go, Girl!
She’s taking no Wall Street bull. Courtesy of SSGA
I was annoyed from the start by the attitude of doubt by the spectators that I would never really make the flight. This attitude made me more determined than ever to succeed.
— Harriet Quimby, just prior to her flight across the English Channel, 1912.
Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress
Women in Aviation
March is Women in History month and also Women of Aviation month. As I started to write this article, I realized I knew so little about women pilots of India. Even less who the first woman was to have taken flight.
There is a lot of misinformation about who the first women pilot of India was. Some sites (including wikipedia and IWPA) attribute this to Sarla Thakral while others claim it is Urmila Parikh. Based on the dates and veracity of the source, it appears Urmila Parikh was the first women pilot of India. She obtained her license in 1932 while Sarla Sharma ne` Thakral obtained it in 1936.
The first woman to obtain her commercial pilot’s license was Prem Thakur in 1948. She later started flying for Deccan Airlines. In 1956, Durba Bannerjee became the first woman inducted into the Indian Airlines and in 1990, Nivedita Bhasin became the youngest woman to command a jet at the age of 26. She was also the first woman check pilot for A300. The first Indian woman to obtain an FAA pilot’s license in 1967 was Chanda Buddhabatti, who started the Indian Women Pilots Association.
It was interesting to learn that the growth of women pilots in India is happening faster than the rest of the world. About 11.6% of the pilots in India are women. The last five years, almost 14.7% of the commercial licenses’ issued were issued to women. More than 48% of the workforce in airline industry is composed of women.
- India currently has 586 women pilots out of a total of 5050 pilots in the country
- Of whom 187 are commanders. Globally there are 480 women commanders.
- Of whom 399 are co-pilots.
Unfortunately, India still has no general aviation presence.