February 14, 1891|
Fort Payne, Alabama
July 8, 1977 (aged 86)|
Santa Fe, New Mexico
|Spouse||Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr.|
|Relatives||Marjorie Stinson, Eddie Stinson|
|Known for||Aviator, stunt and exhibition flying|
|First flight||January 1911|
July 24, 1912|
Pine Bluff, AR
Katherine Stinson (February 14, 1891 - July 8, 1977) was a pioneering American aviator. She set flying records for distance, endurance, and aerobatic maneuvers, and taught at her family's aviation school.
She was born on February 14, 1891, in Fort Payne, Alabama.
She was the fourth woman in the United States to obtain a pilot's certificate, which she earned on 24 July 1912, at the age of 21, while residing in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Initially, she planned to get her certificate and use money she earned from exhibition flying to pay for her music lessons. However, she found she liked flying so much that she gave up her piano career and decided to become an aviator. In January 1911, Stinson went to St. Louis to take flight lessons from Tony Jannus who only allowed her to fly as a passenger. She more than likely received some ground schooling and words of encouragement from Wilbur Wright himself as she is seen in his company about to refuel an aircraft in early 1912 but Wilbur died in May 1912 and before her flight training was begun or complete. She then took flying lessons from the well-known aviator Max Lillie, a pilot for the Wright Brothers, who initially refused to teach her because she was female. But she persuaded him to give her a trial lesson. She was so good that she flew alone after only four hours of instruction. A year after receiving her certificate, she began exhibition flying. On the exhibition circuit, she was known as the "Flying Schoolgirl." Katherine Stinson tried to tell newspaper reporters she was actually 21, not 16, but they refused to believe her.
After she received her certificate, Stinson and her family moved to San Antonio, Texas, an area with an ideal climate for flying. There she and her sister, Marjorie, began giving flying instruction at her family's aviation school in Texas. In March 1915 the famous Lincoln Beachey died in a crash at San Francisco and Stinson later acquired the rotary engine from his wrecked plane. On July 18, 1915, Stinson became the first woman to perform a loop, at Cicero Field in Chicago, Illinois, and went on to perform this feat some 500 times without a single accident. She also was one of the first women authorized to carry airmail for the United States. During World War I, Stinson flew a Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" and a Curtiss Stinson-Special (a single seat version of the JN aircraft built to her specifications) for fundraising tours for the American Red Cross. During exhibition flights in Canada, Stinson set Canadian distance and endurance records, and, in 1918, made the second air mail flight in Canada between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.
Stinson's flying inspired her brothers to form the Stinson Aircraft Company. All of her stunt flying was done in aircraft using the Wright control system, which uses two side-mounted levers for pitch and roll, with top mounted controls for throttle and yaw.
The second oldest general aviation airport in the United States, Stinson Municipal Airport (KSSF) in San Antonio, Texas, was named in the Stinson family's honor. A middle school in northwest San Antonio, TX, Katherine Stinson Middle School, was named in her honor.
Katherine Stinson, who left Chicago this morning with Government mail for New York, landed two miles north of this city at 6:50 this evening.