A Brief History
On February 18, 1930, Elm Farm Ollie (Also known as “Nellie Jay,” “Sunnymede Ollie” and “Sky Queen.” Say, why does a cow need aliases???) made aviation history as the first cow to fly in a fixed wing airplane. Since non-fixed wing aircraft include either helicopters or autogyros, we wonder if any cows flew in those first. Just saying…
Not only did Elm Farm Ollie make the first bovine flight, but she also became the first cow to be milked while flying in an airplane. (Who seriously keeps track of this stuff? The FAA, Federal Animal Aviation?) The stunt was supposedly done for scientific purposes, to study how a cow would react to flying (according to nursery rhyme, they can jump over the moon after all), but it was mostly done for publicity.
Done on the occasion of International Air Exposition that took place in St. Louis, Missouri, the Dairy State of Wisconsin reportedly bogarted the publicity and honors Elm Farm Ollie every year on February 18, also known as “Elm Farm Ollie Day,” at the dairy festival in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.
The airplane in this “test” was a Ford Tri-Motor, an aptly named 3-engine aircraft that proved slow (150 mph max. speed, 90 mph cruise) but sturdy, staying in service into the 21st century, with 8 planes still airworthy. Only 199 were built in total, and 18 are still known to exist. The old warhorse carried could carry either 10 passengers or 1 cow and a milkmaid… Well, in this case, the dairy farmer went along for the ride.
In a bizarre twist, Ollie’s milk was put in paper cartons and parachuted down to the spectators. For you dairy-philes out there, Elm Farm Ollie was a Guernsey cow.
Obviously, there are so many goofy things that have been done or attempted in airplanes, that we will need another article listing some of the most bizarre. Stay tuned!
Question for students (and subscribers): Feel free to nominate your own crazy aviation stunts for inclusion in a future list in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Foster, Gerald and M. R. Montgomery. A Cow’s Life: The Surprising History of Cattle, and How the Black Angus Came to Be Home on the Range. Walker Books, 2004.