A Brief History
On March 8, 1910, the Aero-Club of France issued pilot license #36 to Raymonde de Laroche, making her the first licensed female pilot in the world. Although sometimes referred to as the first woman to fly an airplane, it is likely that 2 other women had flown before her. Note: A female aviator is also called an “aviatrix.”
Laroche had been born Elise Raymonde Deroche in France in 1882. Despite the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers, the fervor over the new aeronautical industry was in Europe, not North America, and Laroche took her keen interest in the new sport to Chalons, east of Paris, where she undertook training. When she made her first flight, it was a solo flight as the crude airplane could only fit the pilot.
Although legally able to fly, La Roche was not permitted to fly for France during World War I and instead drove officers to and from the front, often under fire.
Obviously, flying was a dangerous activity in those early years, and Laroche had been seriously injured in a plane crash in 1910 and again in an automobile crash in 1912. Not dismayed, she continued her flying and after the war, she picked up where she had left off, becoming a test pilot. During that time, she achieved some records for altitude and distance flying.
Unfortunately, her career came to a quick and early end in 1919 when an experimental airplane she was either flying or flying in crashed, killing both her and the other pilot.
A statue of Laroche stands at Le Bourget Airport, and her feats were celebrated March 6-12, 2010 on the 100th anniversary of her earning a pilot’s license when over 225 girls and women were introduced to planes and piloting. Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is timed to coincide with March 8 and was created to honor the contributions and accomplishments of women in aviation. (Note: International Women’s Day also falls on March 8 of each year.)
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you have a favorite woman pilot? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Gibson, Karen Bush. Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys (Women of Action). Chicago Review Press, 2013.