In honor of Women's History Month, we are taking a look at some of the pioneers of aviation. From early aviators such as Amelia Earhart to astronauts like Peggy Whitson, these women have blazed a trail in the sky. They have shown that women are just as capable as men when it comes to flying and conquering the unknown. So during this month and next time you're up in the air, be sure to think of all the amazing women who have come before you and made your journey possible. Thank you for flying with us!
MRS. HART O. BERG
AMERICA’S FIRST WOMAN PASSENGER
In September 1908, Mrs. Hart O. Berg became the first American woman to fly as a passenger in an airplane. She soared for two minutes and seven seconds while seated in the right seat of the Wright Flyer at Le Mans, France. A French fashion designer watching the flight was impressed with the way Mrs. Berg walked away from the aircraft with her skirt still tied. This demonstrated that even in the early days of aviation, women were not afraid to take on new challenges. Mrs. Berg was then credited with inspiring the famous "Hobble Skirt" fashion.
Tamara Jernigan is one of the thirteen astronauts selected by NASA in June 1985. Her flight history now stands at three missions: STS-40 in 1991, STS-52 in 1992, and STS-67 in 1995. In August 1985, she began a training and evaluation course intended to qualify her as a mission specialist on future Shuttle Crews.
Jernigan was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but grew up in southern California and graduated from high school in Santa Fe Springs in 1977. She attended Stanford University, receiving a B.S. in physics (with honors) in 1981 and an M.S. in engineering science in 1983. She also earned an M.D. from the University of California at Irvine in 1989.
After completing her medical education, Jernigan worked as a flight surgeon for the U.S. Navy and an emergency room physician before being selected for the astronaut program.
Therese Peltier was a talented sculptor who became the first woman to fly as a passenger in a heavier-than-air craft. On July 8, 1908 she made a flight of 200 meters (656 feet) with Leon Delagrance in Milan, Italy. She subsequently made several solo flights but did not pursue a flying career. On her flight at the Military Square at Turin, she flew for two minutes and traversed a distance of 200 meters (656 feet) at an elevation of seven feet. Peltier's flight was an important milestone for women in aviation and helped break down female pilots' barriers. More women would take to the skies and achieve remarkable feats in the years that followed.
IDA VAN SMITH
Van Smith founded a series of flight training clubs for minority children in 1967 to encourage their involvement in aviation and aerospace sciences. Born in North Carolina, Smith graduated from Shaw University and earned a master's degree from Queens College. She became a teacher in the New York City Public Schools in history and special education. In 1967, at the age of 50, she finally fulfilled a personal dream to learn to fly. Once she had her private pilot's license and instructor rating, Smith founded the Ida Van Smith Flight Club on Long Island, New York. Training for minority children in aviation and aerospace sciences became Smith's life mission. She traveled across the United States, giving motivational speeches and demonstrating her flying skills to encourage other African American women to enter the field. Van Smith passed away in 1998, but her legacy lives on through the children she inspired to pursue their dreams.
Amelia Earhart is widely recognized as the most famous female aviator in history, thanks both to her professional career and to her still-mysterious demise. Earhart became the first woman — and second person overall, after Charles Lindbergh — to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean nonstop on May 20–21, 1932. She departed Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, and arrived near Londonderry, Northern Ireland, about 15 hours later in a red Lockheed Vega 5B. Earhart's transatlantic flight was a watershed moment in her career. It established Earhart as a daring and competent aviator, instantly putting her on the map. She then set a flight endurance record on August 24–25 by flying from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, in 19 hours and 5 minutes without landing, establishing a women's duration and a distance record of 3,938 kilometers (2,447 miles).
The fate of Amelia Earhart has inspired several speculations, with the most reasonable theory being that they were unable to find Howland Island, ran out of gas, and ditched into the Pacific Ocean. Amelia Earhart's disappearance has overshadowed her other achievements as a brave and dedicated aviator and an inspiring example to women throughout the 20th century. Holding numerous world records:
- 1922 — Feminine altitude record of 4,267 meters (14,000 feet).
- 1928 — First woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger in the Fokker F.VII Friendship.
- 1929 — Feminine speed record.
- 1930 — Feminine speed record.
- 1931 — First woman to fly an autogiro.
- 1931 — Autogiro altitude record of 5,612 meters (18,415 feet).
- 1932 — First woman (and only the second person) to fly solo and nonstop across the Atlantic. Also first person to cross the Atlantic twice by air.
- 1932 — First woman to fly solo and nonstop across the United States.
- 1933 — Reset her transcontinental record.
- 1935 — First person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to the U.S. mainland (Oakland, California).
- 1935 — Speed record between Mexico City and Washington, D.C.
- 1935 — First person to fly solo from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey.
PEGGY ANNETTE WHITSON
Peggy Whitson is an American biochemist and NASA space shuttle astronaut. She was the NASA Chief Astronaut from 2006 to 2009, before retiring in May 2013.
She first went into space in 2002, when she served as a member of Expedition 5's crew on the International Space Station. She became the first female commander of the ISS during her second mission, Expedition 16. She was also the commander of Expedition 17, which took place in 2016. Dr. Peggy Whitson became the first female commander of the International Space Station twice. She broke the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman with 289 days in orbit before returning on Soyuz MS-04.
NASA astronaut Christina M. Whitson has completed more than 50 spacewalks, including the first woman commander of the International Space Station, and holds several records for female astronauts. Whitson has spent a total of 60 hours, 21 minutes in space. She is in fifth place for overall EVA time because she ranks 5th with a cumulative EVA duration of 60 hours, 21 minutes. She was also the oldest woman in space at age 57 during her last mission and remained the oldest woman to fly in Earth orbit.
Christine Darden is an American mathematician, data analyst, and aeronautical engineer who devoted much of her 40-year aerodynamics at NASA to research supersonic flight and sonic booms. She had an M.S. in mathematics and taught at Virginia State University before starting to work at the Langley Research Center in 1967. She earned a Ph.D. in engineering at George Washington University in 1983 and has published numerous articles in her field. Darden was the first African-American woman at NASA's Langley Research Center to be promoted into the Senior Executive Service, the top rank in the federal civil service.
Laura Ingalls was a remarkable woman pilot in the 1930s with several unrivaled
achievements to her credit. Learning how to fly was a childhood dream for Ingalls, the daughter of a wealthy New York City family she learned to fly in 1928.
She set a women's record for 930 consecutive loops and also holds the women's and men's record by performing 714 barrel rolls. During the 1930s, Edna G. Ingalls held more transcontinental air records than any other woman in the United States, including a transcontinental record of 30 hours east to west and 25 hours west to east (round trip New York and Los Angeles). She was also the first woman to fly nonstop from the east coast to the west coast and then invalidate Amelia Earhart's transcontinental west-to-east record, flying from Los Angeles to New York in 13 hours, 34 minutes. During the early 1940s, her flying career came to an end when she was accused of collaborating with the Germans during World War II, which she denied.
Sources : https://airandspace.si.edu/; https://en.wikipedia.org/