Thursday, March 25, 2010

Aviation Legend Passes at Age 98

Elinor Smith Sullivan, a legendary pilot in the early decades of aviation, has died.

Read about her extraordinary life and contribution to aviation in this Washington Post article.

Below is a key excerpt encapsulating a few of her aerial exploits:

Miss Smith, who was known in aviation circles by her maiden name, set multiple solo endurance, speed and altitude records. In answer to a male chauvinist challenge, she flew her plane under four bridges along New York's East River, a stunt that landed her in hot water with federal authorities but secured her fame.

Celebrated in tabloids as Long Island's "youthful air queen," "intrepid birdwoman" and "the flying flapper," Miss Smith was featured on a Wheaties cereal box in 1934. Although now virtually unknown compared with her friend and rival Earhart, she was among the flashiest early aviators.

"She's not a household word, but she probably should be, because she did some really significant flying," said Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where Miss Smith's photo hangs in the Golden Age of Flight gallery.

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