Aviation Pioneer Ruth Nichols Sets Cross-Country Flight Record
When most Americans think of women aviation pioneers, they think of Amelia Earhart. But there were certainly others, such as Harriet Quimby, who in 1912 became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. One of the most impressive American women pilots was Ruth Rowland Nichols, who in the course of her flying career set more than 35 records for women’s aviation. On Dec. 1, 1930, she set one of those records when she flew across the U.S. faster than any woman had done, making the flight in fewer than 17 hours—barely two hours longer than the men’s record.
Her peak was 1931, when she simultaneously held the women’s record for altitude, distance and speed—the only woman ever to do so. In June of that year she set her sights even higher, attempting to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, she crashed in New Brunswick, receiving severe injuries, and had to watch from the sidelines as Amelia Earhart earned that prize when she flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean in May of 1932.
The press avidly followed Nichols’s record flights. The following copyrighted article, about her 1930 cross-country record flight, was printed by the Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas) on Dec. 2, 1930:
Ruth Nichols Beats Record
Flies to California from New York under Seventeen Hours
Burbank, Cal., Dec. 1 (AP)—Flying faster than any woman has crossed the United States before and nearly as fast as any man has traveled, Miss Ruth Nichols, Rye, N.Y., society woman, landed here Monday from New York in a flying time of 16 hours 59½ minutes.
She arrived at the United Airport at 11:57 a.m. (Pacific Coast Time), making the 250 miles from Kingman, Ariz., at 161 miles an hour.
Her time lowered by 8 hours 44½ minutes the east to west record set recently by Mrs. J. M. Keith-Miller, Australian aviator. Miss Nichols’ flight was only a bit more than two hours slower than the sensational speed mark Capt. Frank M. Hawks set last August over a similar route.
So quickly did the attractive young woman sprint her plane over the last barrier of mountains west of Kingman that she nearly raced herself out of a reception committee, which arrived at the field barely in time to return her cheery “hello.”
Miss Nichols began her flight last Monday. Overnight stops were made at Columbus, Wichita, Amarillo and Kingman. Her flight was the more remarkable because she pressed on while many [air]ships were grounded by storms and she flew a large cabin monoplane, powered with a 450-horsepower motor, piloted by few women because of the extreme skill needed.
Still in her twenties, she has been flying eight years. She came into aviation prominence flying in the national air races the last two years. She said she planned to remain here a week or ten days checking her ship and then will attempt to lower Mrs. Keith-Miller’s mark of 21 hours 47 minutes from Los Angeles to New York.
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