Born in Arcadia, Michigan, on May 11, 1875, Harriet Quimby became the first woman in the United States to be awarded a pilot’s license in 1911. On April 16, 1912, she became the first woman to successfully pilot an airplane across the English Channel – an event which earned her the moniker of “America’s First Lady of the Air”. As a journalist, Quimby described her experience in detail and it was printed in the New York-based magazine she wrote for – Leslie’s Weekly.
While working for the magazine in New York City, in 1910 Harriet attended the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament on Long Island, where she met aviator and flight school operator John Moisant and his sister Matilde. She took a series of flying lessons and on August 1, 1911, passed her pilot’s test to become the first woman to obtain an aviator’s certificate from the Aero Club of America. (The second woman to earn her aviator’s certificate was Matilde Moisant.)
Quimby’s crossing of the English Channel, from Dover in England to a beach in Hardelot-Plage in France, took 59 minutes on April 16, 1912. Her intended destination had been Calais, but primarily due to poor visibility, she landed on a beach about 25 miles from Calais after considering, and rejecting, the possibility of landing in nearby cultivated fields. In her account of the event, Quimby notes that she jumped from her airplane and was alone on the beach, when a French-speaking crowd of locals came rushing toward her and carried her up the beach triumphantly, no doubt realizing that they had witnessed the landing of the first woman to pilot an airplane across the channel. Although her achievement was certainly newsworthy, it was overshadowed in the newspapers by the tragedy of the Titanic sinking on April 15, 1912.
Participating in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet on July 1, 1912, Quimby flew her new two-seater Bleriot monoplane out over Boston Harbor before circling the airfield on her return. At an altitude of around 1500 feet, the airplane pitched forward sharply and Quimby and her passenger, William Willard, were catapulted from the plane, falling to their deaths. The plane glided down and landed in an area of mud. The reason for the accident was never established, but it sadly brought an abrupt end to the life of an adventurous aviator who made history and inspired other women to take to the skies, among them the legendary Amelia Earhart.
Located in Sagle, Idaho, the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center showcases the historic achievements of early aviators and innovators who laid the groundwork for modern technology, particularly in relation to aviation. Visitors to the museum will find superbly restored and displayed aircraft from the private collection belonging to the cente’s founder, Dr. Forrest Bird, as well as a range of other aviation-related items, along with inventions within the medical field.
The aircraft collection includes a 1968 Bell 47 (G3B-2) which, with its bulbous cockpit allowing superb visibility, is an excellent search and rescue helicopter. The 1977 Bell IFR212 helicopter in the collection has been used extensively by Dr Bird in his aeromedical research and has been soundproofed to the extent that a stethoscope can be used while in flight. The collection contains two 1938 Piper J3C-65s – one on Edo straight floats and the other on wheels, with the latter being Dr Bird’s father’s airplane. The Piper on floats spends the summer on Lake Pend Orielle, with the winter months spent suspended from the ceiling in a helicopter hangar for the public to view.
A 1967 Alon A-2 has been completely restored with extra fuel capacity and folding wings being added at the time. The airplane can be transported by trailer with the wings folded, and be ready for flight within a few minutes of being unloaded. Other airplanes in the collection include a 1980 Cessna TU206G; a 1947 Republic RC-7 “Sea Bee”; a North American AT-6; a De Havilland DHC-1B-2-S5; a 1940 Boeing B75N1 Stearman; a 1927 WACO model GXE-10; and a 1939 Beech Aircraft Company model F-17-D “Staggerwing”.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame pays homage to innovative designers whose inventions have contributed to the welfare of their fellow human beings, with Dr Forrest M Bird being among these for his design of a fluid control device, respirator, and a pediatric ventilator credited with reducing respiratory-related infant mortality rates ten-fold.
The Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center is open during the summer months Mondays to Saturdays between 8 am and 4 pm and on Mondays to Fridays during the winter. Entrance is free of charge and there is a gift shop and café for refreshments.
There are a host of military missions which have been carried out with the use of aircraft. Some have been defining, even life-saving, while others are renowned due to the apparent improbability of success. Many of these legendary tales have found their way into the history books and newspapers, crowning brave pilots with awards of honor.
This page of Airplanes.com is dedicated to some of the hallmarked missions of aviation history, whether well-known or somewhat more obscure. As this topic is more readily passed down over a few mugs of beer at the local aviators bar rather than in print, contributions to this section are most welcome. If you know of a legendary military mission and would like to see it posted here, please email the details to us and we will research it further for use on our site. In time we are certain that this section of our website will grow into a fairly large database, detailing a number of interesting war-time stories that resulted in both success and failure. In doing so we will honor the memory of those pioneering pilots that took to the sky many years ago.
Heros of Aviation
From the Wright Brothers to Amelia Earhart, aviation history is rich with hundreds of famous individuals. Each have either contributed to the world of aviation in a significant way or have been the first to achieve a new landmark of some sort. Some are noted for their outstanding bravery and determination. This page of Airplanes.com is dedicated to these individuals. However, as there are such a large number of famous people who have made their mark on aviation history, not all of them will appear here immediately. You can be confident that we will endeavor to discuss as many famous people as possible in due time, so if you have a particular favorite, watch this space for their name or email us and suggest someone, detailing what contribution they made to the wonderful world of flight. We will be happy to take your suggestion into consideration.
Wilfred “Wop” May : Famous Bush Pilot
Wilfred “Wop” May began his career with the British Royal Flying Corps during World War I. He escaped death by the Red Baron when another pilot shot down the infamous German ace. May returned home to Canada after the war and joined his brother at May Airplanes Ltd., performing air stunts and delivering freight.
On January 1, 1929, diphtheria erupted in a northern Canadian village. They needed serum to prevent an epidemic. May and his mechanic, Vic Horner, loaded the precious medicine into their two-seater Avro Avian, an open cockpit biplane. After flying for two days at 500′ in blizzard conditions at -60° F, they delivered the serum, saving the lives of hundreds of villagers.
May pioneered the delivery of mail throughout the Far North, and later played a role in the pursuit of the Mad Trapper of Rat River in 1932 in the Northwest Territories. The first use of a plane for law enforcement purposes occurred when May piloted his Bellanca Pacemaker on skis to transport the officers and provide aerial reconnaissance. May saved the life of an officer shot by Johnson, when he flew the man through blizzard conditions to a northern hospital.
Throughout the 1930s, May led the famous Canadian Airways, which flew passengers and freight throughout the remote regions of Canada and North America. After World War II, during which May trained pilots, Canadian Pacific Airways hired him to establish international flight service. Wilfred “Wop” May survived the Red Baron to help develop commercial aviation as we know it today.
Port Adelaide, South Australia
The South Australian Aviation Museum began in 1984 inside a small garage behind a hotel in Glenelg. Two years later, the museum moved to the former SA Lion Flourmill in Port Adelaide. As the South Australian Aviation Museum grew, larger quarters were required and it closed temporarily in 2005 in preparation for relocating to its current home at the aviation complex on Lipson Street.
Aircraft on display inside the museum’s hangar include the Avro Anson, the Douglas C-47B Dakota, the Supermarine Spitfire MKVC, and the classic open cockpit biplane de Havilland Moth. Located around the hangar are numerous floor displays featuring notable aviators such as Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo to Australia which she did from Britain in her Gypsy Moth. Other displays include information on Australian pilot Jon Johanson who holds the world’s record for several aviation achievements involving speed and distance.
The South Australian Aviation Museum also has aircraft engines on display. Among them, see a 6-cylinder 340 HP de Havilland Gipsy Queen engine or the Rolls Royce Merlin MK III engine. The Merlin engine is the type used to power the Hurricane, Spitfire, and other famous aircraft during World War II.
Visitors to the Museum can watch restoration work being performed on a Fairey Battle World War II training aircraft, the only one located in Australia and one of only four in the world. Another restoration project in progress is the twin-engine 1956 Aero Commander. See these planes come alive again as technicians and historical experts restore them piece by piece.
Unique to the Museum is a rocket collection on loan from the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation. It represents more than 30 years of rocket history in South Australia beginning from 1950. Be sure to check with the museum for special events held throughout the year.
The Museum is located on Lipson Street in Port Adelaide. Visit their Web site at http://www.saam.org.au/, and be sure to tell them you learned about SAAM on airplanes.com!