Doing something for the first time takes immense courage and conviction. It’s hard and scary, the uncertainty is definitely unnerving. But without people who have that courage, aviation industry couldn’t be where it is today. In this article we will talk about one of those courageous aviators who played an important part in the progress of aviation; Raymonde de Laroche, the world’s first licensed female pilot.
Aviation is a field that is primarily dominated by males. However, the industry is full of incredible women who take great risks and achieve astonishing feats. These brave women surely deserve to be recognized for their hard work and determination.
Life Of Raymonde de Laroche
Born Elise Raymonde Deroche on the 22nd of August 1882, Raymonde was passionate about sports when she was very little. When she grew up she became and actress and started using “Raymonde de Laroche” as her stage name. As a young woman, de Laroche’s interest in sports turned into an interest in motor vehicles and machines.
Raymonde de Laroche was awestruck when she witnessed Wilbur Wright’s flying demonstrations and really wanted to become an aviator. Charles Voisin, who was an aviator and aircraft builder, was a friend of hers and de Laroche asked him to teach her how to operate a plane.
It was on the 22nd of October 1909 that de Laroche took her first lesson in flying. Since the aircraft could only have one person, Voisin had to instruct her from the ground while she controlled the plane. Following some practice with the aircraft, de Laroche flew the plane for 270 meters (300 yards). According to aviation journalist Harry Harper, the brief flight was about “ten or fifteen feet high” and she easily operated the aircraft with “cool, quick precision”.
The next day, she flew the plane for around 6 km. (4 miles). Despite the strong wind she operated the plane quite comfortably. On the 8th of March 1910, de Laroche earned her pilot’s license from Aero-Club of France, becoming the world’s first licensed female pilot on that day.
After she got her licence, she took part in many aviation gatherings in numerous places such as Cairo, St. Petersburg, Rouen and Budapest. On the 8th of July 1910, de Laroche had an unfortunate plane crash while demonstrating her skills in an airshow. Although many people felt uncertain that she would ever get her health back, she regained her health in two years and went back to flying. On the 26th of September 1912, she suffered another accident, this time it was a car crash.
Despite many accidents she went through, she served during WWI as a military driver. On the 18th of July 1919, she co-piloted an experimental airplane to become the world’s first female test pilot. Unfortunately, the plane crashed and killed Raymonde de Laroche at the early age of 36.
In her short life, de Laroche achieved many feats, including two women’s altitude records and winning the Femina Cup in 1913. Her statue was built in Paris–Le Bourget Airport to keep her memory alive and each year Women of Aviation Worldwide Week includes the 8th of March, the day that de Laroche got her pilot’s license.
Anon. (n.d.), Raymonde de Laroche, Wikipedia, Retrieved 12 May 2021