One Of The Pioneer Women In Aviation
News has come in to ANN that Betty Skelton Erde, known as one of
the pioneer women in aviation, passed away in Florida Wednesday.
She was 86 years old.
Betty Skelton Erde's Pitts Special
Courtesy Wikipedia, Credit User FlugKerl2
Erde, a resident of Winter Park, Florida, was born in Pensacola,
FL in 1926. According to Wikipedia, she set 17 aviation and
automobile records and was credited with opening doors for women in
aviation and the automotive world, as well as astronautics and
She became interested in flying in part because of the proximity
of her childhood home to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. She
soloed a Taylorcraft which belonged to Naval Ensign Kenneth Wright
at the age of 12, and earned her pilot's licence at the age of 16.
She worked as a night clerk for Eastern Airlines just out of high
school, which allowed her to rent and fly airplanes during the day.
She went on to earn single and multi-engine land and sea plane
ratings, as well as commercial and CFI tickets. She joined the CAP
shortly after its formation.
She learned basic aerobatics from Clem Whittenneck in a borrowed
Fairchild PT-19, and became well known on the aerobatic circuit.
She became the first U.S. Female Aerobatic Champion in 1948, often
flying with her pet Chihuahua Little Tinker sitting in her lap. Her
Pitts Special 'Lil Stinker is on display at the
Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport near Washington,
Erde set the world light plane altitude record of 25,763 feet in
a Piper Cub in 1949, and broke that record two years later, flying
to 29,050 feet ... also in a Cub. She set a world speed record for
piston engine aircraft, flying a P-51 Mustang over a 3 kilometer
course at an average speed of 421.6 mph. The National Aviation Hall
of Fame reports that "Betty earned a total of four Feminine World
Land Speed Records and set a transcontinental speed record. She
competed in races across the Andes mountains in South America."
She had been married to Hollywood director and Navy veteran
Donald Frankman in 1965. After his death in 2001, she re-married
Dr. Allen Erde in 2005.