Elinor Smith Biography

Born: 8/17/1911
Died: 3/19/2010 ( Palo Alto, Calif.)
Best Known as: pioneering female aviator

One of the youngest pioneers of aviation, Elinor Smith (born Elinor Patricia Ward), took her first airplane ride at an age most children are heading off to school. Her 15th year saw her first solo flight, and at 18, Smith became the youngest licensed pilot in the world. Smith set multiple solo endurance, speed, and altitude records and pulled a stunt in 1928 that would make her famous: she flew her plane under four bridges along New York's East River—a feat that has never been repeated. In a vote by her flying peers, Elinor Smith was named the best female pilot of 1930, beating out Amelia Earhart. In 1934, Smith became the first woman to appear on a Wheaties cereal box. Smith's last flight was in 2001, when, at the age of 89, she flew an experimental C33 Raytheon Agate, Beech Bonanza, at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.