Harriet Quimby

On April 16th 1912, who became the first female pilot to fly across the English channel?
And the answer: Harriet Quimby.    
Photo credit: public domain. 

In addition to being the first female pilot to fly across the English Channel, Harriet Quimby was also the first woman to qualify for a license from the Aero Club of America, and only the second woman in the world!

At the time where her contemporaries were wearing petticoats and corsets, Harriet Quimby was climbing into a cockpit in her satin flying suit, waving to a crowd. Born May 11, 1875, Harriet Quimby moved to the west coast at an early age, pursuing better living in California. Finding herself in rough and tumble San Francisco, Quimby was raised by a culture of performers, dreamers and bohemians. She began writing, which found a home in San Franciscan readers, and made a name for herself as one of few women in journalism. By 1902, though, Quimby was restless. She moved to New York City, where she began pursuing a career as a pilot. By May 1911, she had convinced her editors to cover the cost of her flying lessons in return for her recording and publishing her experiences. Effectively, Quimby became the first woman to earn her pilot's license in the United States.

Quimby soon joined an exhibition group, and began competing in a variety of events. Less than one month after receiving her pilot's license, Quimby had already won her first cross-country race. She earned a name as an extremely safe pilot, who meticulously prepared and checked her plane before flight. Quimby forever influenced the world of pilot safety with the publication of an article dedicated to avoiding danger in the air. Many of her standards went on to be adapted to become the pre-flight checklist used extensively today.

Finally, on April 16, 1912, Quimby's fame reached its zenith, as she became the first woman to fly the English Channel. The flight was wildly successful, and solidified Quimby's place as a pioneering woman in aviation.

Learn more about Quimby's remarkable contributions to aviation here.


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