Hélène Boucher

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Hélène Boucher
Hélène Boucher.jpg
Born 23 May 1908
Died 30 November 1934
Guyancourt near Versailles
Cause of death
aircraft accident
Resting place
Yermenonville cemetery
Nationality French

Hélène Boucher was a well-known French pilot in in the early 1930s, when she set several women's world speed records, including one which was also a world record for either sex. She was killed in an accident in 1934.


Boucher with her Cirrus-powered Avro Avian

Hélène Boucher was the daughter of a Parisian architect; after an ordinary schooling she experienced flight at Orly and then became the first pupil at the flying schol run by Henri Fabos at Mont-de-Marsan. She rapidly obtained her obtained her brevet (no. 182) aged 23, bought a de Havilland Gypsy Moth and learned to navigate and perform aerobatics. Her great ability was regognised by Michel Detroyat who advised her to focus on aerobatics, his own speciality.[1] Their performances drew in crowds to flight shows, for example at Villacoublay.[2] and her skills gained her public transport brevet in June 1932. After attending a few aviation meetings, she sold the Moth and bought an Avro Avian, planning a flight to the Far East; in the event she got as far as Damascus and returned via North Africa, limited by financial difficulties.[3]

In 1933 she flew with Jacob in the Angers 12-hour race in one of the lowest-powered machines there, a 45 kW (60 hp) Mauboussin-Zodiac 17; they were the only female team competing and came 14th.[4] The following year, on a contract with the Caudron company and in a faster Caudron Rafale she competed again, coming second.[5]

During 1933 and 1934 she set several world records for women, set out below; exceptionally, she held the international (male or female) record for speed over 1,000 km (621 mi) in 1934. Most of these records were flown in Renault-powered Caudron aircraft, and in June 1934 the Renault company also took her temporarily under contract in order to promote their new Viva Grand Sport.

On 30 November 1934 she died aged 26 flying a Caudron C.430 Rafale[6] near Versailles when the machine crashed into the woods of Guyancourt.[1] Posthumously, she was immediately made a knight of the Légion d'honneur and was the first woman to lie in state at Les Invalides, where her funeral obsequies were held.[1][7] She is buried in Yermenonville cemetery.[1] Parts of the press and others held Detroyat to be responsible for her death, spurring a "young, innocent girl" to such a "dangerous sport".[citation needed]

After her death several memorials of different kinds were set up. There is a stone in the Guyancourt woods where the crash happened, a tomb monument at Yermenonville and various squares and street names remember her.[8] 1935 saw the first running of a competition for female pilots, the Boucher Cup.[9]

... and driver

World Records[edit]

Hélène Boucher as a pilot
Set in 1933 in a Mauboussin-Peyret Zodiac[10][11]

Women's altitude: 5,900 m (19,357 ft) - 2 August

Set in 1934 in a Caudron C.450[12]

International speed over 1,000 km (621 mi): 409.184 km/h (254.255 mph) - on 8 August 1934 (also the Women's record over this distance)

Women's Speed: 445.028 km/h (276.528 mph) - on 11 August

Women's Speed over 100 km (62 mi): 412.371 km/h (256.235 mph) - on 8 August

In a Caudron Rafale[12]

Light aircraft (Category 1), speed over 1,000 km (621 mi): 250.086 km/h (155.396 mph) - on 8 July


  1. ^ a b c d "Hélène Boucher". L'Aérophile 42 (12): p.366. December 1934. 
  2. ^ "The Detroyat-Fiesler Aerobatic Match". Flight XXV (42): p.1054. 19 October 1933. 
  3. ^ "Hélène Boucher". Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Angers "12 hour Contest"". Flight XXV (29): p.734. 20 July 1933. 
  5. ^ "Les Douze Heures d'Angers". Flight XXVI (1334): p.743. 19 July 1934. 
  6. ^ "Caudron C430 "Rafale"". Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Mlle. Boucher killed". Flight XXVI (1334): p.1298. 6 December 1934. 
  8. ^ "Boucher Hélène". Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  9. ^ "Hélène Boucher Cup". Flight. XXVIII (1393): p.248. 5 September 1935. 
  10. ^ "Commission sportive". L'Aérophile 41 (10): p.319. October 1933. 
  11. ^ "French Airwoman's records". Flight XXVI (1338): p.836. 16 August 1934. 
  12. ^ a b "World Records set in 1934". Flight. XXVII (1359): p.50. 5 September 1935.