April 16th, 1912 – Woman Flies Across English Channel!

Today-In-History

Harriet Quimby was an early American aviator and a movie screenwriter. In 1911, she was awarded a U.S. pilot’s certificate by the Aero Club of America, becoming the first woman to gain a pilot’s license in the United States. In 1912, she became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

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Harriet Quimby (May 11th, 1875 – July 1st, 1912)

On April 16th, 1912, Quimby took off from Dover, England, en route to Calais, France and made the flight in 59 minutes, landing about 25 miles from Calais on a beach in Hardelot-Plage, Pas-de-Calais. She had become the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel.

Her accomplishment received little media attention, however, as the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15th (the day before) consumed the interest of the public and filled newspapers.

On July 1st, 1912 Quimby flew in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts. Ironically, although she had obtained her ACA certificate to be allowed to participate in ACA events, the Boston meet was an unsanctioned contest. Quimby flew out to Boston Light in Boston Harbor at about 3,000 feet, then returned and circled the airfield. William Willard, the organizer of the event and father of the aviator Charles Willard, was a passenger in her brand-new two-seat Bleriot monoplane. At an altitude of 1,500 feet the aircraft unexpectedly pitched forward for reasons still unknown. Both Willard and Quimby were ejected from their seats and fell to their deaths, while the plane “glided down and lodged itself in the mud”.

Harriet Quimby was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York. The following year her remains were moved to the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New YorkAlthough Quimby lived only to the age of thirty-seven, she had a major influence upon the role of women in aviation.

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