Thea Rasche

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Thea Rasche
Rasche at Berlin-Tempelhof, July 1930
Rasche at Berlin-Tempelhof, July 1930
Born Theodora Rasche
(1899-08-12)12 August 1899
Unna, Germany
Died 25 February 1971(1971-02-25) (aged 71)
Rüttenscheid, Essen, West Germany
Resting place Friedhof Bredeney, Essen
Nationality German
Occupation Aviator
Years active 1925-1933

Thea Rasche (12 August 1899 – 25 February 1971), was Germany's first female aerobatics pilot.


Rasche was born in Unna, one of four children of Wilhelm Rasche (b. 1865), a brewery owner, and his wife Theodora Versteegh from Nijmegen.[1] After attending a girls' school in Essen, she spent a year at a boarding school in Dresden, before going to the Rural School for Women in Miesbach.[2] Rasche then worked as a secretary in Hamburg, where she became interested in flying, and in 1924 began taking lessons with Paul Bäumer at Fuhlsbüttel. In 1925, she received her pilot's license, and soon after became the first German woman to pass the aerobatic examination, flying a Udet U 12. She then participated as an pilot in air shows and competitions in Germany.[1]

In 1927, her father bought her a BFW Flamingo, registration number D-1120, and in July, she set off for the United States,[3] the first of five trips.[1] Rasche first flew from Berlin to Paris (where she met Richard E. Byrd), then to London. She then flew to Southampton where Juan de la Cierva assisted in loading her aircraft aboard the SS Leviathan for the voyage to New York,[3] alongside passengers Cdr. Byrd and Clarence Chamberlin.[4][5] In the United States, Rasche took part in various competitions. On 12 August 1927, when returning to New York, she attempted to fly under a bridge at Albany, only for her engine to fail, forcing her to ditch in the Hudson River. Fortunately, her aircraft was fully insured, and she soon obtained a replacement, D-1229, from Germany.[3] On 28 September 1927, her plane crashed at the Dennison airport in Quincy, after the motor died; she was uninjured, but the plane was damaged slightly.[6]

In 1927 and 1928, she returned to the United States and attempted to organise a flight back to Germany across the Atlantic Ocean,[7][8][9] but these plans came to nothing owing to a lack of financial sponsors. In 1929, Rasche took part in the Women's Air Derby, known as the "Powder Puff Derby", the first official women-only air race in the United States.[1] She also became the first woman to join the exclusive "Quiet Birdmen" club, and was a charter member of the "Ninety-Nines", a group of 99 female pilots who fought for the advancement of women in aviation.[10]

Rasche took part in further flying displays and flights in Germany, and in 1932 she became the first woman in Germany to be awarded a seaplane license. However, financial difficulties forced her to abandon her career as an aviator, and from 1933 she worked as the editor of the magazine Flug-Illustrierten ("Flight Magazine"). In 1934, she flew as a passenger aboard the Douglas DC-2 flown by Koene Dirk Parmentier, to report on the MacRobertson Air Race from England to Australia. In 1935, she became a freelance journalist.[1]

Rasche remained in Germany during World War II, training as a nurse in Berlin during 1945.[2] Rasche had joined the Nazi Party in 1933, and later became a member of the National Socialist Flyers Corps, but appeared before a Denazification Tribunal in Berlin in May 1947, which ruled that she had been only a nominal member of the party.[11]

After the war, she lived in the United States until 1953, then returned to Germany.[1]

Thea Rasche died in Rüttenscheid, Essen, on 25 February 1971.[2]

There are three streets named after her in Germany: Thea-Rasche-Straße in Frankfurt, Thea-Rasche-Weg in Freudenstadt, and Thea-Rasche-Zeile in Berlin, close to Gatow Airport.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Pfister, Gertrud (2003). "Rasche, Thea". Neue Deutsche Biographie (in German). 21 (Online ed.). pp. 157–158. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Theodora Rasche". Friedhöfe Essen. 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Fraulein Rasche's two Flamingos". German Aviation 1919-1945. 2003. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Naughton, Russell (2015). "Thea Rasche (1899-1971), Pioneer Aviatrix". Monash University. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Arriving in New York on 18 July 1927. "German aviatrix here for training; Thea Rasche Will Study Long Distance Flights, Hoping to Fly Over Atlantic. Brings her own plane 23-Year-Old Stunt Flier Says Europeans Must Come to America for Instruction". The New York Times. 19 July 1927. Retrieved 2 March 2016. Thea Rasche, Germany's only woman flier, arrived yesterday on the Leviathan to make an extensive study of long distance flights in heavier-than-air machines. She brought a 100-horsepower Flamingo type airplane, which will be assembled today at Roosevelt Field by her mechanic, Hans von Kruegner, who was also a passenger on the liner. 
  6. ^ AP (28 September 1927). "Woman Flier Wrecks Plane; Escapes Unhurt. Thea Rasche's Biplane Crashes in Forced Landing on Swampy Ground". The Cornell Daily Sun. Ithaca, New York. p. 1 (29 September 1927). Retrieved 2 March 2016. Thea Rasche, German aviatrlx, crashed in her Flamingo biplane in attempting to make a landing at the Dennlson airport at Quincy today. Miss Rasche was uninjured, but the plane was damaged slightly. The accident occurred when Miss Rasche attempted to land her plane on swampy ground near the airport after the motor had gone dead while she was flying 2.000 feet above the field... 
  7. ^ "German Girl Pilot May Fly Atlantic". The New York Times. New York: NYTC. 7 July 1927. p. 4. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 26 January 2015. The broad Atlantic and the thirty-three odd hours required to cross it by air have no terrors for Fraulein Thea Rasche, the twenty-seven-year-old German girl pilot who to date has never flown longer than the two and a half hours her stunt plane's gasoline tanks permit... 
  8. ^ "Thea Rasche In Canada Planning Atlantic Hop. Mrs. Stillman, Her Backer, Outwits Alleged Plotters Against Trip. Has Plane Flown North". The New York Times. Associated Press. 26 June 1928. Retrieved 23 December 2010. Miss Thea Rasche, German stunt flier, and her plane were in the Province of Quebec tonight, where she is preparing to fly within a few days to Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to refuel for her projected transatlantic flight, Mrs. James A. Stillman, wife of the banker and backer of the flight, announced. ... 
  9. ^ "Thea Rasche Rests From Worries Here. German Aviatrix May Go to Stillman Camp Before Making Ocean Hop. Mrs. Stillman Gets Plane. Seeks Curtiss Field Pilot to Take Her to Canada Today on Hearing From Son". New York Times. 27 June 1928. Retrieved 14 October 2012. Fraulein Thea Rasche, the German aviatrix who is planning to fly over the North Atlantic, is still resting here and the Bellanca monoplane ... 
  10. ^ "Our History: Charter Members". The Ninety-Nines, Inc. 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Thea Rasche". Spiegel Online. Hamburg: SpiegelNet GmbH. 31 May 1947. p. 9. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Probst, Ernst (2010). Thea Rasche: The Flying Fräulein (in German). GRIN Verlag GmbH. ISBN 978-3640539840. 

External links[edit]