Flight Training - March 2019 - 28

AOPA

PILOT
GUIDES
THE ONLY COMPLETE RESOURCE
FOR FLYING THE ISLANDS

CAPE SANTA MARIA
LONG ISLAND, BAHAMAS
LAND IN ANOTHER WORLD.
EXPLORE WHERE EVEN THE
AIRLINES DON'T GO.

Buy Now
aopa.org/pilotguides

PREFLIGHT AVIATION HISTORY

BY JILL W. TALLMAN

LOUISE THADEN, SPEED RACER
FAST WOMEN PILOTS AND THE BIRTH OF THE NINETY-NINES
FEW WOMEN PILOTS ACHIEVED NOTORIETY IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF AVIATION, BUT

those who did remain well known today.
One of these women was Louise Thaden (born Louise McPhetridge), who learned
to fly after joining the Travel Air Corporation as a sales representative in Wichita, Kansas. Her salary included free flying lessons, and she earned a private pilot certificate in
1928. That year she also became the first pilot to hold the women's altitude, endurance,
and speed records in light airplanes. She was the fourth woman in the United States to
obtain an airline transport pilot certificate.
The general public was enamored with pilots, but not too keen on the idea of flying.
Thaden admitted that her job at Beech was to convince prospective buyers that if a
woman could fly airplanes, anyone could. And she was good at that job-from 1929 to
1931 she sold 25 aircraft, a high number
for anyone considering the depressed
economy.
By now the nation had begun following
the exploits of pilots in local and national
air races, but women were not allowed to
participate in those events. That changed in
1929 with the first annual Women's Transcontinental Air Derby, flown from Santa
Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio.
Thaden competed against Amelia Earhart,
Pancho Barnes, Ruth Elder, Phoebe Omlie,
Blanche Noyes, and 14 others in a multi-day
event that saw one fatality, several engine
failures, and a few suspected instances of
aircraft sabotage. Ironically, humorist Will
Rogers dubbed the event a "Powder Puff
Derby" after he spotted some racers freshening their makeup before meeting news
photographers at the stopover points.
Thaden went on to win the heavy class,
while Omlie won the light class. By the
finish line, the racers had become friends,
trading maintenance tips and joking about
the chicken dinners they consumed during
the stopovers.
Not wanting to let go of that camaraderie, the racers talked about forming a
club for women pilots. Thaden, Earhart, and others established The Ninety-Nines in
November 1929. Of the 117 licensed women pilots of the day, 99 became charter members of the organization, which took the name from their number. The Ninety-Nines
International Organization of Women Pilots, headquartered in Oklahoma City, continues today with more than 5,000 members.
Stories such as this can be found
in Freedom to Fly: AOPA and the
History of General Aviation in
America celebrating the eightieth
anniversary of AOPA, written by
AOPA writers, now available for
$39.95.
www.aopa.org/freedomtoflybook

28  FLIGHT TRAINING MARCH 2019


http://www.aopa.org/pilotguides http://www.aopa.org/freedomtoflybook

Flight Training - March 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - March 2019

Contents
Flight Training - March 2019 - Cover1
Flight Training - March 2019 - Cover2
Flight Training - March 2019 - Contents
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