History hour: the 1st female pilot takes to the skies
As the world celebrates the International Women’s Day, the aviation industry is no exception – British Airways operated UK’s biggest ever all-female flight, SpiceJet is conducting an exclusive recruitment drive for women pilots, while other airlines offer exclusive discounts to commemorate the day. However, in addition to celebrating women across the world, March 8, 2018, marks a very special day for women in aviation – exactly 108 years ago Raymonde de Laroche got her pilot’s license, becoming the first female pilot in the world.
Raymonde de Laroche was a Parisian woman from a humble background - daughter of a plumber expected to take over the family business, but her aspirations lay elsewhere. Since her childhood Laroche was interested in sports, motorcycles and automobiles. In her 20s she became an actress and a singer. When she was 23 she met an aviation pioneer Charles Voisin and asked him to instruct her how to fly.
With Voisin’s guidance Laroche performed the first solo flight by a woman on October 22, 1909. She operated Voisin brothers’ aircraft, but since the plane could only seat one person Charles Voisin instructed her how to operate the plane from the ground. After mastering taxiing around the airfield, Laroche took off and flew a few hundred meters, becoming the first woman in the world to pilot a plane.
A year after the first flight, on March 8, 1910, Laroche was issued Pilote-Aviateur license #36 from the Aéro-Club de France making her the first woman to become licensed as an airplane pilot. Other women followed suit and four other women got their licenses shortly after.
However, the aviator’s achievements did not end there – Laroche started participating in airshows and competitions. In 1910, she was the only woman participating in Aviation Week at Heliopolis where she took sixth place. Two years later Laroche won the woman’s cup of the Aero Club of France and the Coupe Femina. She also set women’s flying altitude and distance record at 4,800 meters and 232 km.
Raymonde de Laroche’s legacy remains to this day – her statue at Le Bourget airport in Paris immortalizes her fearless pioneering in the aviation industry.
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