ELINOR SMITH – THE FLYING FLAPPER – 1920s


Great Video on Elinor Smith.

Elinor Smith was born in 1911. She knew she was born to fly at the age of 6 when she took her first airplane ride. She started taking lessons at the age of 8. She was fortunate at that time to have parents who supported her in what she wanted to do. Her mother didn’t want to deny her daughter opportunities just because of her gender and her father had always had a passion for planes. These things helped her in her quest to fly. Elinor set many aviation records. Most of these records came because of her age. She was youngest woman to fly solo at the age of 15. At the age of 16, she became the youngest person to earn a pilot’s license in the U.S. On October 21, 1928 at the age of 17, Elinor flew under four East River Bridges in New York City. The bridges she flew under were the Queensboro, the Williamsburg, the Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Bridges. She is the only person ever to accomplish that feat. Her first world record was the endurance record she set on January 31, 1929 of 13 hours, 16 minutes, and 45 seconds. During that flight was the first time she had ever landed at night. In April of 1929, Elinor again broke the endurance record making it now 26 hours, 23 minutes, and 16 seconds.

Later that year, she teamed up with Bobbi Trout and set a joint record endurance flight of over 42 hours and became the first women to refuel a plane in midair. She also became the first person, male or female, to receive a transport pilot’s license at the age of 18. While she was still 18, she became the first woman to pilot a military aircraft.

In 1929, she became the first female executive pilot of the Irving Chute Co., for a nationwide tour to demonstrate parachute drops . In 1930, she became the first woman to test pilot for Long Island’s Fairchild Aviation Corp. In 1931, she became the first woman to fly over 30,000 feet, but she wanted to beat that record. So, a week later, she went up again and set a new women’s altitude record of 34, 500 feet.

Her proudest moment though was in 1930 when all the licensed fliers of the U.S. were asked to name the best female and male pilots in the United States. Elinor won. She said, “It was such an honor to know that my peers considered me the best.”

Elinor then married a year or two later and had two children. While she was pregnant with her third child, she thought maybe she shouldn’t be flying; that she should be home taking care of the children. So, she quit flying. Almost 25 years past before she piloted a plane again.

Elinor loved to fly; Flying was meant for her. She is such a great example to the aviatrix of today.

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