Monday, October 29, 2012

American Women's Aviation Started in Hammondsport, Steuben County, New York

On September 2nd in 1910, Blanche Stuart Scott eased her Curtiss pusher off the ground in Hammondsport.  After flying steady, straight, and true for a bit she eased back down to a safe landing.  No big deal -- except that it was the first flight piloted by a woman in the western hemisphere.

When she was 13, Blanche annoyed the city fathers in Rochester by tooling around town in a single-cylinder Cadillac.  She went finishing school for a while, but never got finished.  In 1910 she pitched a publicity stunt to the Willys-Overland auto people.  If she, a “mere” girl, could drive “Overland in an Overland” from coast to coast… wouldn’t that stimulate sales?

So drive she did (in an age when very few people went that far by train), accompanied by a support car but doing all the maintenance and repairs herself.  She was probably 23, but said she was 18... it made the stunt even more impressive.

She signed a contract to learn flying from a doubtful Glenn Curtiss; a woman killed in a crash, he figured, would take the airplane business down with her.  But he started instruction on a wait-and-see basis.  Misled about her age, Mr. And Mrs. Curtiss insisted she say at their house, and she rode down to the flying field each morning by motorcycle.  She was so short that she would coast up to the hanger wall and vault off to dismount.

She actually took some inadvertent “hops” before September 2nd, sparking tales about “accidentally-on-purpose” outwitting the male chauvinists.  But even Blanche (who was never shy about claiming credit) did not consider those real flights, and dated her career from that deliberate and controlled flight on the second.

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