women in aviation and space history

Matilde Moisant

Matilde Moisant
NASM-73-3564
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Matilde Moisant

Early Flight (107)

Matilde Moisant was the second woman in the United States to receive a pilot's license. Moisant learned to fly at her brother Albert's Moisant Aviation School on Long Island, along with aviator Harriet Quimby, and earned her license on August 13, 1911. Together the two pioneer female aviators and friends joined the Moisant International Aviators. Moisant made her exhibition debut at the Nassau Boulevard Aviation Meet in September where she won the Rodman-Wanamaker altitude trophy by flying her 50 hp Moisant monoplane to an incredible 366 meters (1,200 feet). She beat both Quimby and French pilot Helene Dutrieu. Moisant flew in meets throughout the country and Mexico until the early spring of 1912, often flying at higher altitudes than most male pilots. Then bowing to the wishes of her family, still recovering from the fatal crash of her brother John in 1910, Moisant scheduled her last flight for April 14, 1912, in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was almost her last performance of any kind as her aircraft burst into flames upon landing, due to a leak in the fuel tank. Moisant was pulled from the wreckage with her clothes afire but fortunately her heavy wool flying costume saved her from serious injury. During World War I, she performed fundraising duties (on the ground) for the Red Cross.

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