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October in Aviation History

On October 24, 1910 Blanche Scott (born 1884 in Rochester, N.Y.) became the first woman to fly at a public event in America at an air show in Fort Wayne, Indiana. About a month earlier she had taken flying lessons from Glenn Curtiss in Hammondsport, New York (where she is credited by some with being the first female to fly solo in the U.S.) and joined the Curtiss exhibition team for the October 24 air show. She became an accomplished stunt pilot, and in 1912 became the first woman test pilot, flying again for Glenn Curtiss. She became well known for her daredevil stunt flights and long distance flights.

Scott was also the second woman to drive a car across the country. She was fascinated by automobiles as a youngster, and began driving at an early age (before age minimums were observed). In 1910 she persuaded Willys-Overland to sponsor a cross country trip to demonstrate the durability of their cars and that a woman could drive and maintain a vehicle on a transcontinental trip. Accompanied by a woman reporter, she drove the “Lady Overland”, departing from New York in May and arriving in San Francisco in July of 1910. During the trip, on a stop-over in Dayton, Ohio, she witnessed a Wright Brothers flying exhibition. Within the next few months she was flying airplanes.

After recovering from serious injuries in a 1913 crash, she cut back on her flights and retired from active flying in 1916. Realizing that the aviation industry offered no opportunities for women to become mechanics and engineers, she went on to careers in movie screen writing and acting as well as radio producing and performing. But Scott still had some aviation accomplishments to offer. In 1948 she became the first woman to fly in a jet, as a passenger in a TF-80C piloted by Chuck Yeager. And in 1954 she became a consultant for the US Air Force Museum (now the National Museum of the United States Air Force), helping to acquire early aviation artifacts. In 1980 the United States Postal Service issued a stamp to honor her accomplishments. In 2005 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Blanche Stuart Scott died on January 12, 1970 in Rochester, having been a part of the early days of aviation, and living to see the early events of the space age.

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