Betty Skelton Erde, an aviator and auto racing pioneer who became the fastest woman on Earth in 1965, has died. She was 85.
Erde set female speed records at Daytona Beach and Utah's Bonneville salt flats more than half a century ago.
In 2008, she was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in suburban Detroit.
Dozens of firsts are attached to her name: the auto industry's first female test driver in 1954; the first to set a female world land speed record in 1956 (145 mph at Daytona Beach); and the world land speed record for women in 1965, hitting 315.72 mph at Bonneville.
Erde began drawing attention as a female stunt pilot as a teenager in the 1940s.
'To me, there's hardly any feeling in the world that can equal the feeling of an airplane when the wheels leave the ground,' Erde said in 2008.
She mastered dozens of tricks.
Her signature move was cutting a ribbon strung between two fishing poles with her propeller, while flying upside down just 10 feet off the ground.
In 1948, she bought a rare Pitts Special - a lightweight, red-and-white biplane suited for aerobatics.
But while Erde was soaring in popularity, she also was a rarity because she was a young, beautiful woman in a male-dominated world of death-defying stunts.
In 1953, the man who began the NASCAR race circuit asked Erde to fly some auto racers from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
She and Bill France became fast friends.
In February 1954, France invited Erde to Daytona. She climbed into a Dodge sedan, went 105.88 mph on the beach and set a stock car record.
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