Private Jet Ride For Graduation Gift Creates Aviation Pioneer

DuPage Admin | March 6, 2014

Private Jet Ride Gift Leads to Aviation History – March 6, 1931

On this day in aviation history, Ruth Rowland Nichols flew a 1928 Lockheed Vega 5a single-engine high wing monoplane named The New Cincinnati to 28,743.44 feet and setting the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Altitude Record. The flight took place at Jersey City Airport in New Jersey.

Ruth Rowland Nichols was born in 1901 and would become a pioneer in the world of aviation. She is the only woman to hold world records for speed, altitude, and distance at the same time. Her father gifted her with a plane ride for her high school graduation and her love of flying and desire to become a pilot was born

Co-Pilot For the first Non-Stop Flight From New York to Miami

While in college, she secretly learned to fly and was the first woman in the world to be granted a hydroplane license. Her first claim to fame came in 1928 when she acted as co-pilot on the first non-stop flight from New York to Miami. The press named her the “Flying Debutante” because of her family’s status and she was a founding member, along with Amelia Earhart, of the Ninety-Nines, one of the first national organizations for female pilots.

Nichols notoriety would only grow over the next decade as her achievements stacked up. She broke Charles Lindbergh’s cross-country record, set this and other altitude records, set the original female record for both speed and distance, and was the first female commercial pilot. Despite being seriously injured in two crashes, Nichols never stopped flying and during WWII she led a civilian air service called Relief Wings.

Private Plane Pioneer Ruth Nichols

Private Plane Pioneer Ruth Nichols Set World Altitude Record with “The New Cincinnati”

In her later years, Nichols dedicated her time to humanitarian efforts and worked to raise money for UNICEF, Save the Children, the United Hospital Fund, and the National Nephrosis Foundation. She went on to set new women’s records for both speed and altitude when she was 57 while piloting a TF-120A Delta Dagger that traveled 1,000 mph and attained an altitude of 51,000 feet. She participated in the early phases of the U.S. Space Program, testing to become an astronaut even though she was almost in her 60’s. Over the course of her life, Nichols flew almost every kind of aircraft that existed at the time and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1992.