An excerpt from The Fun of It, Random Records of My Own Flying and of Women in Aviation about the first women’s air race written by Amelia Earhart and published in 1932.
The event which started concerted activity among women fliers was the cross country air derby for women of 1929. This was a race which started on the West Coast and ended eight days later at Cleveland, Ohio.
Sunday afternoon August 18, nineteen planes with propellers turning, lined up at Clover Field, Santa Monica, California. Will Rogers was on the loud speaker to point out the humorous aspects of such an event. Taking their cue from him, newspaper men coined descriptive names for the affair before contestants reached their first stop. It was generally called the “powder puff derby” and those who flew in it variously as “Ladybirds”, “Angels” or “Sweethearts of the Air”. (We are still trying to get ourselves called just “pilots”.)
Finishing a race, as in anything else, is as important as starting, and sixteen of the women crossed the white line at the end. This was the highest per cent of “finishers” in any cross country derby, up to that time, for men or women.
This first air derby was won by Louise Thaden of Pittsburgh, with Gladys O’Donnell of California, second and me third. It captured the public interest and proved invaluable in interesting other women in aviation. A large part of the crowds to which greeted the derby at the prearranged stops along the route were women. They came to see what the powder puffers themselves looked like and after that what kind of airplanes they had. Some were so interested in these they poked umbrellas through the fabric on the wings to discover what was inside. Since then I have maintained that women’s hesitancy in accepting air travel is simply because they are uninformed about it. What people don’t understand, they usually fear.
Funny and serious situations continuously arose behind the scenes on the race. Blanche Noyes discovered fire in the baggage compartment of her plane and had to come down on a mesquite covered section of western Texas to put it out. No one knows how she managed to land without damaging the plane nor how she took off again from such a place.
Now and then some of the inexperienced pilots got lost, some ran out of gasoline, some were forced down by motor trouble. During the course of the race, more than one had to pick out the best spot available and make an unscheduled descent. Of course, when a pilot finds it necessary to land away from an established airport he – or she – heads for a good big pasture if one is around. One day one of the girls had to seek a pasture for some reason and the best one she saw had animals in it. Nevertheless she landed safely and then to her consternation watched the creatures solemnly walk toward her. Her version of the story is that she promptly offered up a little prayer. It was “Dear God, let them all be cows.”
Speaking of cows, I am reminded of one of the most famous of air mail stories. Dean Smith flew the route from New York to Cleveland for a good many years. On one occasion, when his motor failed him, he too sought a pasture for a landing. Unfortunately, the “animals” in it were not well behaved for they stood in his way and he landed directly on one. The following is in substance the account of the accident which he telegraphed to his chief —
Although only two years separates them, it is a far cry from the pioneering derby performance to women’s share in the National Air Races in Cleveland in 1931. There for the first time in the United States men and women participated in a cross country derby together. There were about fifty entrants whose planes had been handicapped on the basis of their top speeds.
Unlike the British, the Americans have done little mixed racing, nor have they favored any system of handicapping. The method of determining classes has been almost universally based on size of motors. Thus, a cabin airplane built to carry six passengers might be placed in the same class with a strictly racing plane carrying only the pilot because both had engines with the same cubic inch displacement.
In England, on the other hand, almost all racing has been carried on with the fast planes starting late to give the slower ones a chance motors not being considered. So that, barring an accident good piloting wins or loses. The King’s Cup Race, the most famous annual cross country event, is run this manner, and is open to all pilots of both sexes. Miss Winifred Brown is the only woman who has won it (1930).
2016 BI-ANNUAL Training Conference
“TRAIN 2 GAIN”
Celeste Flemmming, Manager, AMA-415
FAA Employee assocations are teaming up to present a training conference at the new Fort Worth Regional Office and Service Center TEXAS Conference Center June 21-23, 2016. The conference has been approved as training by the agency. These conferences traditionally offer strong up-to-date training as well as networking and professional growth opportunities. This year the theme is #Train2Gain and there are three major training strings.
– Technical training, including eLMS-creditable work related training classes such as Electrical Safety Qualified Person and Back to Basics. Training on 6000.15 and SWIM/DATACOMM are also offered.
– Leadership and Professional Development training includes Interviewing Skills, Generations in the Workplace, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Building your FAA Resume, Coaching/Mentoring and others.
Leadership training also includes a day-long workshop on Worker’s Compensation topics and a course that provides students with Department of Labor OSHA Certification credentials. This string also provides training in financial management for federal employees including retirement planning and college savings planning.
– Project Management Professionals will appreciate that 12 PDUs will be offered by MMAC’s Dotti Call, covering a full spectrum of PMP subjects that are also appropriate for aspiring PMPs.
Topics covered also will include CEDAR, Nextgen, Critical Incident Stress Management, Safety Management Information System, Technet and Tech Ops Toolbox, Privatization/Restructuring, UAS or “Drones”.
Agency executives will attend and participants can interact with them via executive panels and more informal settings such as the “fireside chat”. Sponsors will also be at the conference, providing information at booths that participants can visit. Registration will open soon via TWO website technicalwomen.org. The conference hotel is the Marriott Courtyard Alliance Town Center. For more information, contact Celeste Flemming at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Written by Rick Williams