On July 14, 1912, Katherine Stinson became the 4th woman pilot (Federation Aeronautique Internationale license #148) in the U.S. after training at Max Lillie’s Flying School. Her flight test required flying figure-eights and climbing to an altitude of 500 ft. At the time of her licensing, Stinson was the only woman pilot in the country. Harriet Quimby and Julia Clark had both died and Mathilda Moisant had retired from flying.

Stinson also persuaded Lillie to teach her stunt flying so she could do demonstration flights. She purchased her first plane from Lillie, a well-used Wright Model B and immediately flew exhibitions around the Midwest.

Only 21 years old, Stinson continually amazed seasoned aviators as well as spectators. Just five feet tall and weighing 100 lbs. many doubted she could control her Wright airplane, which had a reputation for being difficult to control, especially in Chicago weather. From her youth and frail look she became known as the “Flying Schoolgirl.” 

Unlike most exhibition pilots, however, instead of flying with an exhibition team, she remained independent, incorporating herself as the Stinson Aviation Co. Throughout her career, Stinson was known as a meticulous mechanic starting with her first plane. was no exception. Before the exhibition season, Stinson took her plane apart thoroughly cleaning it and replacing any parts that showed the slightest wear. She also pioneered the pre-flight walk around, thoroughly inspecting her aircraft before each take-off. Not surprisingly, Stinson’s exhibition aircraft were free from many mechanical problems that plagued less conscientious flyers.[1]


[1]            Balloons to Jets: A Century of Aviation in Illinois 1855–1955; by Howard L. Scamehorn; Carbondale IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. p.72.

                Aero and Hydro; "More Cicero Pilots;" multiple locations: E. Percy Noel, ed.; July 20, 1912;

                Chicagology (online) “Aeronautical Center Part 2—Aero Club of Illinois”; accessed 2/1/2018; 


                Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation; by Giacinta Bradley Koontz; Prescott AZ: Running Iron Publications, 2011; p. 47-52.

                 100 Greatest Women in Aviation; Liz Moscrop & Rampal Sanjay; Essex, UK: Aerocomm Ltd., 2008; p. 26-27.

                Roger Launius's Blog (online); "Katherine Stinson and the Early Age of Flight in America;" updated December 16, 2016; accessed 4/18/2017.