December 17th, 2013 will be the 110th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ 1st successful flight of a powered heavier than air aircraft, but did you know that a Jersey girl flew a powered aircraft solo six months before them?
Aida de Acosta from Long Branch, NJ was visiting Paris during the summer of 1903 when she saw Alberto Santos-Dumont’s flying dirigible and asked him to give her lessons — after three lessons, she flew the craft solo for two hours and Santos-Dumont declared, “Mademoiselle, vous êtes la première aero-chauffeuse du monde!” (“Miss, you are the first woman aero-driver in the world!”).
The press did not, however, carry the news, as her father firmly believed that a woman’s name should only appear twice in her lifetime…when she was married and when she died! (The story came out years later after she was on her second marriage… you can read it here.)
There are many other early female aviators whose extraordinary accomplishments were obscured by the fame (and mysterious disappearance) of Amelia Earhart. (Incidentally, New Jersey also played a role in Earhart’s famous transatlantic solo flight — she flew her plane from Teterboro airport to Newfoundland before flying across the Atlantic.)