women in aviation and space history

Laura Ingalls

Laura Ingalls
NASM-79-3163
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Laura Ingalls

Golden Age of Flight (105)

Laura Ingalls was a highly successful female pilot of the 1930s with several unusual records to her credit. Daughter of a wealthy New York City family, Ingalls learned to fly in 1928. In 1930, she performed 344 consecutive loops, setting a women's record, and she shortly broke her own record with 930. She also did 714 barrel rolls breaking both women's and men's records. Ingalls held more U.S. transcontinental air records during the 1930s than any other woman, including a transcontinental record of 30 hours east to west and 25 hours west to east (round trip New York and Los Angeles), both in 1930. In 1935, she became the first women to fly nonstop from the east coast to the west coast and then immediately broke Amelia Earhart's nonstop transcontinental west-to-east record with a flight from Los Angeles to New York in 13 hours, 34 minutes. Her most well-known flights were made in 1934 and earned her a Harmon Trophy as the most outstanding female aviator of the year. Ingalls flew in a Lockheed Orion from Mexico to Chile, over the Andes Mountains to Rio, to Cuba and then to New York, marking the first flight over the Andes by an American woman, the first solo flight around South America in a landplane, the first flight by a woman from North America to South America, and setting a woman's distance record of 27,358 kilometers (17,000 miles). In 1936, she placed second behind Louise Thaden in the prestigious Bendix Trophy Race. Ingalls' flying career ended with questions about spying for the Germans in World War II, charges she denied.

(information compiled by D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez)