Harriet Quimby

Harriet Quimby

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman

Jackie Cochran

Jackie Cochran

studio portrait

Amelia Earhart

First Woman to Fly ...

a Plane, around the World, across the Atlantic, etc.

By , Mar. 2011. Updated July 23, 2011.

Many of these early records are clouded by conflicting claims and ambiguous circumstances. Read on, or search further, but beware that some of these early "female firsts" in aviation are uncertain.

Who was the first woman to fly a plane?

Therese Peltier is generally credited as being the first female passenger, during a flight in France in July 8, 1906. In 1908 she also became the first woman to fly and first to solo with several flights in a Voisin. Also in 1908 she was a passenger with her friend Leon Delagrange for a duration record setting flight of 30 minutes.

In 1908 Delagrange offered a prize of 1000 francs to the first woman who could fly 1 kilometer. Peltier started training for it but Delagrange was killed in a plane crash, and Peltier quit flying after that.

There are also claims that Henri Farman flew an woman passenger, Mlle P. Van Pottelsberghe, in Ghent Belgium, in late May 1908, (per Le Patriote Illustre, 7 June 1908).

1910 - Blanche Stuart "Betty" Scott, was an early American automobile enthusiast, and was the second American woman to drive a car from coast to coast.

Betty Stuart came to the attention of Glenn Curtiss, the aviation pioneer based in Hammondsport, NY, and he began teaching her to fly. On September 2, without permission or knowledge of Glenn Curtiss, the airplane's owner and builder, she removed the throttle-limiter (a small wood wedge intended to keep the aircraft from taking off) and got the airplane airborne -- without any flying lessons -- thus becoming the first American woman to pilot an airplane. While she certainly did get aloft, there remains some doubt as to whether or not it was intentional.

Thus, Bessica Medlar Raiche's flight on September 16 was accredited as first by the Aeronautical Society of America at the time.

Who was the first licensed female pilot?

1910 - Baroness Elise Raymonde de Laroche obtained a license from the Aero Club of France, the first woman licensed in the world.

De Laroche was already an experienced balloonist when, in October 1909, aviator Charles Voisin suggested she could learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. On 22 October 1909, de Laroche flew 300 yards (270 m) at Chalons, east of Paris, where the Voisin brothers based their operations. De Laroche's flight is sometime cited as the first by a woman in a powered heavier-than-air craft. However it seems probable that Thérèse Peltier had flown the previous year (see above).

On 8 March 1910, de Laroche became the first woman in the world to receive a pilot licence when the Aero-Club of France issued her license #36 of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (F.A.I.). De Laroche participated in aviation meetings at Heliopolis in Egypt as well as Saint Petersburg, Budapest and Rouen.

1911 - August 11 - Harriet Quimby became the first American woman licensed pilot.

Who was the first African-American woman pilot?

1921 - Bessie Coleman became the first African American, male or female, to earn a pilot's license.

Born in 1893, she was one of 12 children of a poor Texas cotton-farming family. At a time when African Americans were regularly denied even a basic education, Coleman managed to graduate from high school and then moved to Chicago.

Unfortunately, even the urban North offered only limited opportunities to women of color. Coleman worked as a manicurist, but airmen returning from World War I sparked her determination to fly, even when she could find no one in the United States who would give her lessons.

In November 1920, Coleman headed to France. Seven months later, she became the first African American woman to earn an international pilot's license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

She returned to the United States and became an immediate sensation. "Brave Bessie" traveled the country in a barnstorming tour, wowing crowds and inspiring African American men and women alike. For the next five years, Coleman used her notoriety to encourage African Americans to take up flying, reminding them nothing was impossible. She even refused to perform at venues that didn't allow blacks.

Who was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic?

Amelia Earhart: June 17-18, 1928 - First woman to fly across the Atlantic (as a passenger); May 20-21, 1932 - First woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Who was the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound?

1953 - Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran became first woman to break the sound barrier.

Known by her friends as "Jackie," she flew her first major race in 1934. In 1937, she was the only woman to compete in the Bendix race. That year, she also set a new woman's national speed record. By 1938, she was considered the best female pilot in the United States. During World War Two, she was helped to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

After the war, Cochran joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve where she eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She began flying the new jet aircraft, going on to set numerous records. Encouraged by Chuck Yeager, with whom she shared a lifelong friendship, on May 18, 1953, at Rogers Dry Lake, California, Cochran flew a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet borrowed from the Royal Canadian Air Force at an average speed of 652.337 mph, becoming the first woman to break the sound barrier.

Who was the first woman to fly around the world?

1964 - March 19 - Geraldine (Jerrie) Mock was the first woman to pilot a plane around the world.