Blanche Stuart Scott

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“Blanche Stuart Scott at the controls of her plane,” 1912. Courtesy of the California Historical Society via the University of Southern California Libraries.

Blanche Stuart Scott was already an accomplished automobile driver before she took an interest in flight. Scott was one of the first women to drive cross country, a trip that took over two months, and was made lengthier by the fact that there were only 218 miles of paved road in the United States at the time.

Nicknamed “Tomboy of the Air,” Scott may have been the first woman to fly solo in an airplane.  Unfortunately, the historical records of her flights are unclear. Conflicting reports suggest that she either took off in Hammondsport, New York, in August or September of 1910, or in October 1910 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At the time, she was taking lessons with Glenn Curtiss, a well-known airplane manufacturer.

She never obtained a pilot's license, so she was unable to fly on the East Coast of the United States. She decided to go west to California in 1912, where there was no license requirement. She took an interest in flying exhibitions and was known for doing “death dives” from up to 4,000 feet. By 1916, she decided to retire from flight when she found that the crowds were more interested in crashes than the flying itself. She moved to Hollywood and had a career in film and radio before being hired as a consultant for the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.