License, Aviator Pilot, Civilian, Laura Bromwell


Display Status:

This object is on display in the General Aviation exhibition at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

After World War I, people taught themselves to fly or sought instruction from local pilots and official schools. The Fédération Aéronautic International (FAI) in Paris issued pilot licenses, with assistance in the United States from the Aero Club of America and later the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). These licenses were only required for flying in an official NAA air meet. There were no standard flight tests for an FAI license. Laura Bromwell received her FAI license in 1919 and set a new women's record for loops - 87 - on August 20, 1920.

Collection Item Long Description:

Described by the press as the "foremost American aviatrix" in the early 1920s, Laura Bromwell was an aviation world record holder before her tragic death in a plane accident in 1921. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 17, 1897, with her father dying in 1907 and her mother in 1918. She flew as a passenger for the first time by winning a competition selling $21,000 worth of Liberty bonds during World War I, and later learned to fly in 1919 by joining the New York Aerial Police Reserve, becoming the first aerial policewoman in the world, and rose to the rank of captain. She was also the first woman since World War I to earn her pilot's license, receiving her Federation Aeronautique Internationale certificate on October 22, 1919.

On May 15, 1921, she set an aerobatic record by looping 199 consecutive times in just one hour, 20 minutes and also set a female speed record of 135 miles per hour with that same flight. Just two weeks later, on June 5, she was performing stunts for an audience in Mineola, Long Island, when her plane stalled in the middle of a loop and fell one thousand feet to her death. The most likely explanation was that Bromwell, who was flying a borrowed Canadian JN-4, was not as familiar with the straps and did not secure herself properly. As the plane was upside down, Bromwell is suspected to have lost her footing on the pedals and control of the airplane, crashing within sight of the spectators below.

This pilot's license was donated to the Museum's collection in 1984.

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


Laura Bromwell

Credit Line

Gift of Edward Peck


Paper, leather


  • Length: 4.25 in (10.8 cm)
  • Width: 3 in (7.62 cm)

Country of Origin

United States of America



Physical Description

Blue-black leather, gold lettering; FEDERATION AERONAUTIQUE INTERNATIONALE, Aero Club of America, Aviators Certificate. License No. 4620 issued on 22nd October 1919 signed by Alan R. Hawley, President and Augustus Post, Secretary.



Inventory Number