Category Archives: 1920s

1 April 1921: Adrienne Bolland

Adrienne Bolland, Femme Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. (1895–1975)
Adrienne Bolland, Femme Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. (1895–1975)

1 April 1921: Adrienne Bolland (née Boland), a pilot employed by René Caudron to demonstrate his airplanes in South America, flew a Caudron G.3 from Mendoza, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile, across the Andes Mountain Range. The flight took 4 hours, 17 minutes.

Adrienne Bolland is greeted on her arrival at Santaigo, Chile, 1 April 1921.
Adrienne Bolland is greeted on her arrival at Santaigo, Chile, 1 April 1921.

Bolland was awarded a gold medal by the Argentine League of Patriots at Buenos Aires.

FLIGHT reported:

Mdlle. Bolland Crosses the Andes

From a Daily Mail report Mdlle. Bolland, the French aviatress, on April 1, left Mendoza, Argentina, at 7.30, and flew over the Andes Mountains, arriving at Santiago in Chile, just three hours later.

This the second time Mdlle. Bolland has flown over the Andes.

The distance Mdlle. Bolland covered was about 112 miles. There are heights of more than 20,000 ft. in the neighborhood of the point at which she crossed the range.

We are just wondering whether the journey was anon-stop” one, with strong headwinds, or whether a halt was made en route, and if the latter, where.

FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 641 (No. 14, Vol. XIII.), 7 April 1921, at Page 250, Column 2

Adrienne Boland was born at Arcueil, a suburb of Paris, France, 25 November 1895. She was the youngest of six children of writer Henri Boland. At the age of 24, she decided to learn to fly and enrolled in flight training at Société des Avions Caudron (the Caudron Airplane Company), Le Crotoy.  After two months, she had earned her flying license. An error on the certificate spelled her surname with two “l”s, and she retained the name “Bolland” for the rest of her life.

Chilean dignataries congratulate Adrienne Bolland at Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.
Chilean dignataries congratulate Adrienne Bolland at Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.

Mlle Bolland was employed by René Caudron to transport airplanes to and from the factory. She told Caudron that she wanted her own airplane. He told her that if she could perform a loop in a Caudron G.3, a pre-World War I scout plane, that she could fly it for the company. She did, and was then asked to fly it across the English Channel, which she did, 25 August 1920.

Adrienne Bolland flew this Caudron G.3 from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.
Adrienne Bolland flew this Caudron G.3 from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, 1 April 1921.

Caudron sent her to Argentina to demonstrate his airplanes. Once there, she planned to fly across the Cordillera de los Andes (the Andes Mountain Range) to Chile. The mountains were higher than the airplane was capable of flying, so she had to fly through valleys to find a way across. Departing Mendoza, Argentina at 6:00 a.m, she headed across the 400-kilometer (250 miles) wide mountain range. Most of the flight was at an altitude of 4,500 meters ( 14,764 feet) and it was extremely cold. Without maps, she succeeded: “Suddenly I saw a break in the mountains. . . and in the distance, the plain of Chile. I was saved.”

Adrienne Bolland with her Caudron G.3, 19 May 1921. (Air France_
Adrienne Bolland with her Caudron G.3, 19 May 1921. (Air France)

In 1924, France named Adrienne Bolland a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur for her accomplishment.

Adrienne Bolland crossed the Andes in a Caudron G.3, c/n 4902, registered F-ABEW. The Caudron G.3 was a World War I reconnaissance airplane and flight trainer manufactured by Société des Avions Caudron. It is called a sesquiplane because the lower wing is significantly shorter than the upper. It was a single-engine aircraft that was built in single- and two-place variants. The engine and cockpit are contained in a very short fuselage, supporting the wings and landing gear. Tail control surfaces are mounted on an open framework tail boom.

The Caudron G.3 was 6.40 meters (21 feet) long with an upper wingspan of 13.40 meters (44 feet). The height of the aircraft was 2.50 meters (11 feet, 2 inches). The airplane had an empty weight of 420 kilograms (926 pounds) and maximum weight of 710 kilograms (1,565 pounds).

The G.3 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 10.910 liter (665.791 cubic inches) Société des Moteurs Le Rhône 9C nine cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5:1. It was rated at 70 cheval vapeur (1 ch = 0.99 horsepower) at 1,100 r.p.m., and 80 cheval vapeur  at 1,200 r.p.m., but able to produce a maximum 92 cheval vapeur (90.77 horsepower) at 1,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The 9C was 0.810 meters (2 feet, 7.9 inches) long, 0.930 meters (3 feet, 6.1 inches) in diameter and weighed 119 kilograms (262 pounds).

The Caudron G.3 had a maximum speed of 106 kilometers per hour (66 miles per hour) and service ceiling of 4,300 meters (14,108 feet).

“On 1 April 1921 in Santiago, French pilot Adrienne BOLLAND on board her Caudron G-3 after she succeeded in crossing the Andes. It is a signed photo: the pilot’s signature is at the centre.” (Getty Images/Keystone-France)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 March 1928: Eileen M. Vollick

Eileen M. Vollick with W. Fleming in a Jack Elliott Air Service airplane at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, ca. 1927–28. (Canada Aviation Museum)
Eileen M. Vollick with W. Fleming in a Jack Elliott Air Service airplane at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, ca. 1927–28. (Canada Aviation Museum)
Eileen Vollick
Eileen Vollick

13 March 1928: At Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Miss Eileen M. Vollick passed her flight test in a Curtiss JN-4 Canuck, and was issued license number 77. She was the first woman licensed as a pilot in Canada.

The following is an article written by Eileen Vollick, prior to her death in 1968 (photographs are from various other sources):

Owen Sound Sun Times

How I became Canada’s first licensed woman pilot
EILEEN M. VOLLICK
Wednesday, August 6, 2008 10:38:00 EDT AM

“Opportunity” was calling in a thousand forms, in a new and thrilling and expanding industry- viz-commercial aviation, and I felt the urge to fly, to become a pioneer and blaze the trail for the women of my country.

Early in March, 1927, Jack V. Elliot, pioneer of commercial aviation in Canada, opened his school and clubhouse at a place called Ghent’s Crossing, overlooking Hamilton Bay. The story of that flying school and clubhouse, the first of its kind in the Dominion, will be handed down to posterity, not only on account of its pioneer proprietor, but for the reason that in the pages of Canadian Aeronautical history will be found the names of young men and incidentally one woman, whose vocations were founded on faith and the future destiny of aviation in our country’s commercial life.

A Curtiss JN-4 Canuck at the Elliott Air Service hangar, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (National Aviation Museum)
A Curtiss JN-4 Canuck at the Elliott Air Service hangar, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (National Aviation Museum)

My home at that time was on the Beach, and from my bedroom window I could see the activities going at the aerodrome, the cutting down of trees, the dumping of load after load of cinders, to make the track or runway, the building of the hangars, and finally the installing of the planes. Each day as I drove my car past the aerodrome a small still voice whispered “Go ahead, brave the lion in his den and make known your proposition to him.“

I proposed to learn to fly, and fearful of being turned down or laughed at (women had not then entered into this man’s game in Canada.) I hesitated, wondering how much courage or talent was required to fly an airplane. I have never been afraid to go after anything I wanted and to stay until I got it, so, as “the whispering voices”ne day I ventured into the proprietor’s den, and asked him: — “Can a girl learn to fly.” He simply smiled, thinking doubtless I was looking for a thrill, but I soon convinced him I was in earnest, and later I met the Controller of Civil Aviation, Flt. Lieut. A. T. Cowley of Ottawa, who advised me to write the Government for permission to learn to fly commercially, no woman in Canada had previously made such application, and Mr. Elliot was doubtful of my success. However, on June 14th, 1927, I was advised from Ottawa that the matter had been fully considered and in future certificates would be granted to women providing they passed the necessary tests and had reached the age of 19 years, and though it was through my efforts women were admitted into the flying game at Ottawa, had I not been first, some other enterprising girl would have paved the way to put Canadian women on a par with other countries.

I was only 18 years old at that time and could not qualify but with the official benediction over my head I made arrangements with Mr. Elliot and became an ardent disciple of his school.

The instruction planes at the Elliot Air Service have a dual control and by means of specially constructed earphones on the helmet the pilot gives his instructions to the student flyer.

My first flight in the air was an epoch of my life never to be forgotten, no matter what I may achieve in the future the exhilaration of that flight will linger when all others are merely an event.

The pilot who took me aloft thought he would either frighten me or find out how much courage I possessed, for though it is against the rules to “stunt” with a passenger, it is of great value for a student and a necessary adjunctive. By “stunts” I mean “spins,” “loops,” “zooms,” all very thrilling and decidedly the acid test for a new flyer, and I got mine for half an hour, satisfying my instructor as to my flying ability.

DESCRIPTION OF MISS VOLLICK’S FIRST FLIGHT

Eileen Vollick
Eileen Vollick

“As I sat in the cockpit I felt quite at home, fear never entered my head and when I saw the earth recede as the winged monster roared and soared skyward, and the familiar scenes below became a vast panorama of checker- boarded fields, neatly arranged toy houses, and silvery threads of streams, the pure joy of it, gave me a thrill which is known only to the air-man who wings his way among the fleecy clouds. Perhaps the most trying sensation of a flight comes at the close, when the plane glides rapidly earthward and one feels that familiar “elevator” feeling but even that sensitiveness passes away after a few flights. A spin or a loop, though significantly spectacular from below, is a simple stunt to the aeronaut and easy to accomplish. In flying the most important factors are “taking off” and “landing.” Anyone can fly straight and keep towards the horizon, but rising from the ground and returning, is a different matter. These two factors are important tests when the government inspector examines a pilot for his or her license.”

Aviation always had a fascination for me even before I realized what a great thing had been accomplished when a motor driven vehicle could be propelled at great speed through the air, and when I actually became an active member in the field my enthusiasm knew no bounds.

I would like to write here, that, when I entered the school of aeronauts I mixed exclusively with men, no other girl or woman attended the lectures, entered the hangars or worked around the planes but myself, and from the first day when I became a student with the cadets, to the time I received my pilot’s license on March 13, 1928, there was not a man amongst them who failed to remember my sex, nor one who spoke a disrespectful word to me, yet at the same time I was one of them, joined in their discussions, donned overalls and often looked more grimy and greasy than the rest. Truly the air-men are gentlemen. Their ambitions were my ambitions, their success was my success, and each one was as eager as the other to help me in any difficulty, I had confidence in them which was never misplaced, and in the years to come when aeronautics are intelligently understood and acknowledged by the world at large, and I am only one amongst thousands of my sex who are trained flyers, my thoughts will revert to the days when I was a student flyer, and I can say then, with all my heart, “happy days, loyal friends.”

I must mention my first instructor Pilot Earl Jellison, under whose guidance I stored away knowledge which later proved invaluable. Writing from Vancouver where he was stationed Pilot Jellison sent congratulations on my success and wrote as follows: “I was very pleased with your ability last summer, and I think you know something of the confidence I had in you when you walked out on the wing to do your famous ‘parachute jump’ into Hamilton Bay.” This incident happened soon after I started to fly, and it takes a great deal of confidence to walk the wing of an airplane and jump into space, especially when the controls are in the hands of a strange pilot, but I felt no fear and evidently he felt none. A flyer must never make acquaintance with “fear” if he or she wants to become a successful pilot. I have never felt afraid, flying high or low, over land or water, and though I began my flying lessons in summer it was off the ice on Hamilton Bay that I took my solo flight, and passed the government tests. As a proof that my sense of “fear” is small, when I took the parachute jump from the wing of the plane into the waters of Hamilton Bay, from an altitude of 2,800 feet, it was a record, being the first Canadian girl to leap from a plane into water. Parachute work, however, was not my ambition. I wanted to fly.

The first Curtiss JN-4 Canuck built by Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, 1917. (Canada Aviation Museum)
The first Curtiss JN-4 Canuck built by Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, 1917. (Canada Aviation Museum)

The summer months passed too quickly. October came, and flying days were drawing to a close at the airport. Soon, the family of cadets would move from the Beach to the city . . . The first week of the New Year saw me down at the winter quarters, situated at the extreme end of Hamilton Bay, in the north section of the city. And I began the most strenuous hard work I have done during the nineteen years of my life.

The oracle of “early morning flying” is an open sesame if the student-flyer wants to become a real success, and after several flights off the ice on Hamilton Bay, I made arrangements with my instructor Pilot Richard Turner, to fly as early as possible.

This necessitated some of the mechanical crew being down at the airport long before the sun rose in the horizon to fuel the plane and warm up the motor ready for flight. It is said that an aviator or aviatrix must be ready at all times day or night whenever a call comes, and this creed is thoroughly instilled into the minds of each student. So up in the morning early, long before the streets were warmed I left my cosy cot, drove my faithful old Ford down to the airport, donned a flying-suit and with the tang of ice and frost upon pilot, plane and student, we rose from the hardened ground, and winged our way over the icy Bay, across the cold waters of Lake Ontario, back to the city, then after “landing” and “rising” several times, we flew back to port, full of early morning pep, which the sluggard abed can never fully comprehend. Once more aboard my car and back home to breakfast. Eight a. m. found me on my way to the Hamilton Cotton Co., where I was textile analyst and an assistant designer.

Flying is, and always will be, my uppermost thought, yet I never neglected my duties at the office, and when Alan V. Young, President of the Cotton Co. gave me leave of absence to try my examination tests, the time off had been well earned.

Flying in the air is not the only qualification for a pilot, he or she must have a theoretical as well as a mechanical knowledge of aircraft. Lectures for students are given three times weekly at night and students must attend regularly or lose some important part of their training. I never missed a lecture, in fact when the Aero-Club of Hamilton started their lectures at the Technical School, I made a point to attend both. I was out for knowledge on aircraft. Performance is the supreme test, and the time was drawing close when I had to prove my worth or fall down in my tracks. I was ready for a cross-country flight, which is one of the government requirements. Tuesday, February 28th, was a bright, clear, cold day, ideal flying weather, and I was bound on a glorious adventure, my cross-country test flight. Accompanied by Pilot R. Turner, we left Hamilton early in the morning, arrived at St. Thomas; landed safely at McManus Field, refuelled the plane and took off for Hamilton, completing the round trip in 2 hours and 25 minutes. After more landings, a lesson or two on the use of skiis . . . and the eventful day finished.

The government inspector had arrived and the cadets waited anxiously. Before a license can be issued, the pilot must make four landings, from a height of 1,500 feet, within 150 feet of a spot designated on the ground, one landing from 5,000 feet with the motor shut off, five figure 8 (eight) turns between two designated marks, and a 175-miles cross-country flight. The day previous to the tests I had the extreme pleasure of taking Captain G. B. Holmes, Government Inspector, for a flight, and he gave me great credit for the able manner in which I handled the plane. On March 13, 1928, (lucky day for me) along with ten other cadets of the Elliot Flying School, I successfully passed the Government Civil Aviation examination, making three three-point landings on the ice with skiis, in place of wheels, to the utmost satisfaction of Captain Holmes, and the hearty congratulations of my instructors, and fellow students.

They give credit, these loyal air-men, for having an iron nerve, and skill of an old war time pilot, “nerve” is a natural gift from God. “Skill,” I owe to my instructors, I have had three of whom I cannot speak too highly, Pilots Earl Jellison, Lennard Tripp, and Richard Turner whose invaluable assiduous instruction and help, enabled me to earn the proud title of “Canada’s First Licensed Woman Pilot” and made my dreams come true.

http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2008/08/06/how-i-became-canadas-first-licensed-woman-pilot

An original 1917 Curtiss JN-4C Canuck. (Unattributed)
An original 1917 Curtiss JN-4C Canuck. (Unattributed)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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10–11 February 1929: Evelyn “Bobbie” Trout

"Feb. 11, 1929: Evelyn "Bobbie" Trout, 23, standing beside her Golden Eagle airplane at Mines Field after setting women's solo endurance flying record." (Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)
“Feb. 11, 1929: Evelyn “Bobbie” Trout, 23, standing beside her Golden Eagle airplane at Mines Field after setting women’s solo endurance flying record.” (Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)

10–11 February 1929: At Mines Field, Los Angeles, California (now, Los Angeles International Airport—better known simply as LAX), Evelyn (“Bobbie”) Trout set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration with an overnight endurance record of 17 hours, 5 minutes, while flying the prototype R.O. Bone Co. Golden Eagle monoplane. This was Bobbie Trout’s second duration record. Her first, set at Metropolitan Field, Van Nuys, California, 2 January 1929, had been broken by Elinor Smith, four weeks later.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Evelyn Trout – a wisp of a woman in a wisp of an airplane – landed at Mines Field yesterday after having flown alone more hours and more miles continuously than any other woman in the world ever did before. Also, she is the first woman ever to fly through an entire night. She may have taken up the heaviest loaded sixty-horse-power plane that ever left the ground.

Miss Trout, Bobbie, as she is more generally known, took off at Mines Field Sunday at 5:10:15 p.m. She landed at the same place yesterday at 10:16:22 a.m. She was in the air 17 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds, Joe Nikrent, chief timekeeper, announced.

The flight, Dudley Steele, contest chairman of the National Aeronautical Association, said, was three hours and forty-eight minutes longer than the previous woman’s endurance record.

She flew, he said, approximately 860 miles. This, he pointed out, is not far under the world record hung up in Europe some time ago by a man who flew a plane in that class 932 miles over a charted course. Steele said her average speed was 50.292 miles per hours…

Miss Trout got out of the plane with but little more evidence of fatigue than if she had been up only a few hours.

“Hello mother,” she cried to Mrs. George E. Trout, who ran to embrace her.

“We’re awfully proud of you,” Mrs. Trout said.

“Thanks mother, dear,” Bobbie replied.

The young woman, who is 23 years of age, stretched herself and danced on first one foot and then the other.

“I need exercise,” she said, straightening out her cramped limbs.

She posed patiently for newspaper photographers and laughingly talked with any of the crowd of several hundred that was on the field to see her land. . . .

Los Angeles Times, 12 February 1929

Having saved $2,500.00 for training, at the age of 22 Bobbie Trout began her flight lessons at the Burdett Air Lines School of Aviation at Los Angeles. She soloed four weeks later. On 21 January 1929, trout was awarded a pilot certificate by the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A, on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Her license was carried by space shuttle pilot Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Marie Collins aboard Discovery (STS-63) in February 1995.

National Aeronautic Association pilot's license, signed by Orville Wright. (The Ninety-Nines)
National Aeronautic Association Pilot’s Certificate No. 7027, signed by Orville Wright. (The Ninety-Nines) 

FAI Record File Num #12220 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Duration
Performance: 17 h 5 min
Date: 1929-02-11
Course/Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA)
Claimant Evelyn Trout (USA)
Aeroplane: R.O. Bone Co Golden Eagle
Engine: 1 _other LeBlond 5 cyl.

Official timer Joe Nikrent consults with Evelyn Trout, while Will Rogers looks on, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, 11 February 1929. (Unattibuted)
Official timer Joseph A. Nikrent consults with Evelyn Trout, while Will Rogers looks on, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, 11 February 1929. (Unattibuted)
Evelyn Trout with the prototype Golden Eagle monoplane, NX522, 1929. (Unattributed)
Evelyn Trout with the prototype Golden Eagle monoplane, NX522, 1929. (Unattributed)

Evelyn Trout later wrote about her record flight:

Shortly after my First Solo Endurance Record on January 2, 1929 of 12 Hours–11 Minutes, it was bettered by 1 hour. My Boss, Mr. Bone had promised me that any time my record was broken he would help me better it.

 His factory went to work making a larger gasoline tank. On February 9th the plane was standing on the south side of Mines Field (now LAX) while last preparations were in progress and Joe Nikrent (official timer) was standing on his head in my Golden Eagle putting the barograph in the fuselage. Of course plenty of mechanics, pilots, press writers, photographers, my family and public were there to watch Mr. Bone and me prepare for my 2nd Solo Endurance Flight Take-Off. This was about 4PM when I crawled up into the cockpit wearing my beautiful red sheep-wool lined coat with a huge Golden Eagle on the front, and my woolen breeches and boots to keep me warm. After I was in the seat, good luck items, food, and liquid were given to me to place where ever I could find room and get to them, which took some figuring. All seemed ready for the night.

Switch on and the prop was turned, after a few kisses from family and Mr. Bone I turned into position for take-off which soon saw me lift-off for a long grueling flight. The first half of the night was simple flying around the field and watching the cars disappear. As night grew longer and all below was quiet except for the Klieg lights that shone brightly and I would fly through the beams, then I became very sleepy “as I later learned that my system was lacking in protein,” I would sing, rub my neck, wiggle in the seat, rub around my helmet, pat my cheeks, peel tangerines and eat them, this continues on and on, sometimes I would find myself drifting off to sleep only to be awakened by the engine revving faster from a downward flying position which would frighten me enough to stay awake for a longer time. These actions were repeated over and over until the sun finally started to climb up and over the horizon. This seemed to give me a good lift to continue on my route which was around and around the field and sometimes over Inglewood, where I later found out that I had been keeping the residents awake. I would gain altitude when I wandered away from the field too far as to make a Record, the plane must return to the take-off field. After several hours planes were coming up with congratulations and all sorts of expressions because I had made a new record. I landed about 10AM. Little did I know or the press, or the factory and Mr. Bone, at this point, that I had made 6 records. We did know that I was the first Woman to fly all night and stay up 17 hours and 5 Minutes which did set a record for miles flown too, but it took time for the engineers to check that I with the 60 HP LeBlound [sic] engine had lifted off with a greater load for that 60 HP engine and later the sq. Feet of the wing, and another technicality.

A bed & home was all that I wanted now! — Evelyn Trout

Evelyn Trout’s airplane, the prototype of the Bone Gold Eagle, serial number C-801, was designed by R.O. Bone and Mark Mitchell Campbell. It was a single-place, single-engine high-wing monoplane (“parasol”) with fixed landing gear.  The Golden Eagle was 21 feet, 10 inches (6.655 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 5 inches (9.271 meters). Its empty weight was 800 pounds (363 kilograms) and gross weight was 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms).

The airplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally aspirated 250.576-cubic-inch-displacement (4.106 liter), LeBlond Aircraft Engine Corporation 60-5D five-cylinder radial engine, which had a compression ratio of 5.42:1. It was rated at 65 horsepower at 1,950 r.p.m., at Sea Level. The 60-5D was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed propeller. The engine weighed 228 pounds (103 kilograms).

The Golden Eagle had a cruise speed of 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour). The standard production model had a fuel capacity of 25 gallons (95 liters).

The prototype was assigned Experimental registration NX522, 3 May 1929. While being flown by Eddie Martin, NX522 was damaged beyond repair in an accident, 8 July 1929, at Los Angeles, California. The registration was cancelled 25 July 1929.

Astronaut Eileen Collins holds Bobbie Trout's pilot certificate, 1995. (Unattributed)
Astronaut Eileen Collins holds Bobbie Trout’s pilot certificate, 1995. (Unattributed)

The production Golden Eagle was advertised as a very stable, “hands off” airplane. The asking price for the basic model was $2,750.00. The R.O. Bone Company reorganized as the Golden Eagle Corporation but The Great Depression doomed the company. Only one Golden Eagle is believed to exist.

Evelyn Trout set several other flight records. Along with Amelia Earhart and several others she co-founded The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women aviators. At the age of 97 years, she died at San Diego, California 27 January 2003.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 January 1929: Mary, Lady Bailey, DBE

The Honorable Mary Bailey, DBE. (Monash University)
The Honorable Mary Bailey, DBE. (Monash University)

16 January 1929: After a 10-month, 18,000-mile (29,000-kilometer) solo flight from Croydon Aerodrome, London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, Mary, Lady Bailey, arrived back at the Stag Lane Aerodrome at Edgeware, London, flying a de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBTG.

A contemporary newspaper reported the event:

LADY BAILEY’S FLIGHT.

(British Official Wireless.)

LONDON, Jan. 16.

     Lady Bailey landed at Croydon this afternoon in her De Havilland Moth aeroplane, thus completing a flight from London to Capetown and back. She was greeted at Croydon by a large and cheering crowd.

Lady Bailey is the first woman to fly from London to Capetown and back. She has made the longest flight ever accomplished by a woman, and her 18,000 miles journey is the longest solo flight by either a man or a woman. She is the first woman to have flown over the Congo and the Sahara.

The Royal Aeronautical Society, in congratulating Lady Bailey, pays tribute to her as one of the gallant pioneers of Aeronautics.

The Sydney Morning Herald, No. 28,405. Friday, 18 January 1929, Page 13, Column 1.

A contemporary cigarette card with an illustration of Lady Bailey's DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBTG. (Monash University)
A contemporary cigarette card with an illustration of Lady Bailey’s DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBTG. (Monash University)

Flight offered the following commentary:

A Great Little Lady

Exactly how many miles she has covered during her long flight is difficult to estimate; nor is this necessary for a full appreciation of the merits of Lady Bailey’s flight from London through Africa to the Cape, around Africa and home again. The general press has made much of the fact that Lady Bailey’s flight is the longest ever accomplished by a woman, and the longest solo flight ever undertaken, thus establishing two “records.” To us that is of very minor importance. What matters is that an Englishwoman should have chosen to see Africa from the air, and should have been prepared to rely entirely on her own resourcefulness in making the tour. Everyone who knows Lady Bailey at all well realises that personal “advertisement” is the last thing she would desire; she is the most modest and unassuming of women. But her great achievement must unavoidably bring her into the “limelight.” From her point of view the whole thing resolved itself into this: She wanted to tour Africa; she was already a private owner-pilot. What more natural, then, than that she should make the tour by air? Only those who have a fairly good knowledge of Africa, with its variety of country and climate, can realise the sort of task Lady Bailey set herself. That she should have completed the tour, as far as Paris, there to be held up by fogs, is but the irony of fate, and is an experience which has befallen many air travellers. Her great flight was in any case a tour and not a spectacular “stunt” flight intended to break records, so we should not let the delay on the final stage be regarded as other than one of many incidents on a tour that must have been full of surprises and disappointments. Through tropical heat, in rain or snow, across mountains, deserts and seas, Lady Bailey carried on with a quiet determination which is, we like to think, a characteristic of our race, and her de Havilland “Moth” and “Cirrus” engine did not let her down. England is proud of the trio and its achievements.

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 1046. (No. 2. Vol. XXI.) 10 January 1929, at Page 20.

The Royal Aero Club awarded its Britannia Trophy for 1929 to Lady Bailey for the “most meritorious flight of the year.”

Mary (née Westenra), Lady Bailey, 1 September 1911. (Bassano Ltd., Royal Photographers. © National Portrait Gallery, London)
Mary (née Westenra), Lady Bailey, 1 September 1911. (Bassano Ltd., Royal Photographers. © National Portrait Gallery, London)

Lady Bailey was born Mary Westenra, daughter of the 5th Baron Rossmore. She married Sir Abe Bailey at the age of 20.

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.
The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

Soon after becoming a licensed pilot in early 1927, she flew across the Irish Sea, the first woman to do so. She set a world record altitude, 5,268 meters (17,283 feet), 5 July 1927. She set several long distance solo flight records, including an 8,000-mile flight from Croydon, South London to Cape Town, South Africa with a DH.60X Cirrus II Moth, G-EBSF, and an 10,000-mile return flight made with another DH.60X (after G-EBSF was damaged). These were the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman to that time.

Harmon International Trophy (Aviatrix)
Harmon International Trophy (Aviatrix)

Lady Bailey was twice awarded the Harmon Trophy (1927, 1928). In 1930, she was created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. During World War II, The Hon. Dame Mary Bailey, DBE, served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the rank Section Officer, equivalent to a Royal Air Force sergeant.

Lady Mary died 29 July 1960 at the age of 70.

G-EBTG (c/n 469) was a de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus II Moth which had been sold to Lady Bailey by Commander Lionel Mansfield Robinson of Nairobi, Kenya, as a replacement for her own Moth, G-EBSF, which had been damaged at Tabora, Tanganyika, 4 October 1928.

G-EBTG was reconditioned by de Havilland’s and a more powerful engine was installed. The airplane changed hand several times, and was written off as damaged beyond repair after a collision with a furniture van in 1938.

The de Havilland DH.60X Cirrus II Moth was a two-place, single-engine light biplane with a wooden airframe which was covered with plywood, with sheet metal panels around the engine. The wings and tail surfaces were fabric-covered, and the wings could be folded to fit inside a small hangar. The “X” in the type designation indicates that the airplane has a split-axle main landing gear, which forms an X when seen from the front of the airplane.

The DH.60X Cirrus II Moth was 23 feet, 11 inches (7.290 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet (9.144 meters). Its height was 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 920 pounds (417 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,750 pounds (794 kilograms).

The Cirrus II Moth was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 304.66-cubic-inch-displacement (4.993 liter) A.D.C. Cirrus Mark II four-cylinder vertical inline engine. This was a right-hand tractor, direct-drive, overhead-valve engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. It had a normal power rating of 75 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. and a maximum power rating of 80 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. The Cirrus Mk.II was 3 feet, 9.3 inches (1.151 meters) long, 1 foot, 7 inches wide (0.483 meters) and 2 feet, 11.6 inches (0.904 meters) high. It weighed 280 pounds (127 kilograms).

The DH.60X Cirrus II Moth had a cruise speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 14,500 feet (4,420 meters). The maximum range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).

The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., built 32 of the DH.60 Cirrus II Moth variant. Nearly 900 off all DH.60 Moth models were built at the company’s factory at Stag Lane, and another 90 were built under license in Australia, France and the United States.

de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth, similar to the airplanes flown by Lady Bailey.
de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth, similar to the airplanes flown by Lady Bailey. (Royal Air Force Museum)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 July 1927: Mary, Lady Bailey, DBE

The Honorable Mary Bailey DBE. (Monash University)
The Honorable Mary Bailey DBE. (Monash University)

5 July 1927: Less than one year after learning to fly an airplane, Lady Bailey, with Mrs. Geoffrey de Havilland (the former Miss Louise Thomas) as a passenger, took off from the de Havilland airfield at Stag Lane, Edgeware, London, England, and climbed to an altitude of 5,268 meters (17,283.46 feet) setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for multi-place light aircraft. (Mrs. de Havilland is listed as “crew” in the FAI record.) Lady Bailey was flying Captain Geoffrey de Havilland’s personal airplane, a DH.60X Moth, construction number 276, registration G-EBQH.

FAI Record File Num #8221 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C 1st category 1927-1931 (Multiplaces < 400 kg, Light Landplane)
Category: General
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 5 268 m
Date: 1927-07-05
Course/Location: Edgware (UK)
Claimant The Hon. Bailey (GBR)
Crew Mrs G. DE HAVILLAND
Aeroplane: De Havilland DH Moth
Engine: 1 Cirrus Engines Cirrus II

de havilland DH.60X Hermes Moth G-EBWD, the same type airplane flown by Lady Bailey. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph below.) (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
de havilland DH.60X Hermes Moth G-EBWD, the same type airplane flown by Lady Bailey. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph below.) (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Lady Bailey was born Mary Westenra, daughter of the 5th Baron Rossmore. She married Sir Abe Bailey at the age of 20. Soon after becoming a licensed pilot in early 1927, she flew across the Irish Sea, the first woman to do so. After her World Record altitude flight, she set several long distance solo flight records, including an 8,000-mile flight from Croydon, South London to Cape Town, South Africa with a DH.60 Cirrus II Moth, G-EBSF, and an 18,000-mile return flight made with another DH.60 (after G-EBSF was damaged). These were the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman to that time. Lady Bailey was twice awarded the Harmon Trophy. In 1930, she was created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. During World War II, The Hon. Dame Mary Bailey, DBE, served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the rank Section Officer. She died 29 July 1960 at the age of 70.

G-EBQH was a prototype for the DH.60 Cirrus II Moth, and was powered by a 274.36-cubic-inch-displacement (4.495 liter) air-cooled ADC Cirrus Hermes 4-cylinder inline engine producing 105 horsepower. It was also used as a factory demonstrator and test aircraft. The DH.60X crashed in February 1928 but was rebuilt and later sold. It was flown in the King’s Cup Air Race of 1928 and 1929, with a more powerful Cirrus III engine and modification to a single-place configuration, known as the Moth Special. In the 1929 race, it set the fastest time for a light aircraft. Records indicate that G-EBQH changed ownership a number of times. Its Certificate of Airworthiness expired in 1937 and its status is not known.

A de Havilland DH.60X Moth G-EBWD at Naval Air Day at Shuttleworth, 2 June 2002.  This airplane is similar to the DH.60X that Lady Bailey flew to her FAI altitude record. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph above).
A de Havilland DH.60X Moth G-EBWD at Naval Air Day at Shuttleworth, 2 June 2002. This airplane is similar to the DH.60X that Lady Bailey flew to her FAI altitude record. (This is the same airplane shown in the photograph above).

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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