Viola Gentry

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Viola Gentry
Full name Viola Estelle Gentry
Born 1894
Rockingham, North Carolina
Died 1988 (aged 93–94)
Nationality American
Aviation career
Known for First Woman to set the first non-refueling endurance record for women

Viola Gentry (1894 - 1988)[1] was an American aviator, best known for setting the first non-refueling endurance record for women.

Early life[edit]

Gentry was born in Rockingham, North Carolina. She learned to fly an airplane in 1924, which made her the first woman from North Carolina to fly an aircraft.[2]

December 1928 attempt[edit]

On December 20, 1928, Gentry flew 8 hours, 6 six minutes and 37 seconds, which set the first non-refueling endurance record for women.[2][3] This record was broken in 1929[4] when Bobbi Trout flew from California for 12 hours straight. After Smith's flight, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) rules were regulated stating that endurance records had to be broken by a full hour.[5]

July 1929 attempt[edit]

In the attempt to reclaim the endurance record from Trout, Gentry tried another endurance flight which set out on July 27, 1929.[2][6] Her aircraft, "The Answer", crashed in a field in Old Westbury, killing her co-pilot Jack Ashcraft. Gentry survived the crash with a fractured skull and crushed shoulders, and was rushed to a hospital in Mineola, where she spent more than six months recovering.[7]

Upon discharge from hospital in Mineola, Gentry took up residence with friends in Freeport. She was unsuccessful in obtaining further work as an endurance pilot although she did return to flying, albeit as a passenger.[7]

December 1933 attempt[edit]

In 1931, Gentry quit professional flying and returned to her previous job as a cashier at a North Carolina restaurant.[8][9] Despite the change of career, she continued in her attempts to set flying endurance records. On December 10, 1933, Gentry took off from Miami, Florida, in a new attempt to beat the record, supported by co-pilot Frances Marsalis and a refueling ship manned by Jack Loesing and Fred Fetterman. Gentry intended to remain aloft for ten days and thereby beat the then-current record of eight days, four hours and six minutes, set by Marsalis and Thaden at Valley Stream.[10][11]

Later life[edit]

Gentry continued throughout her life to advocate aviation, promoting it among young women and men.[2] In 1934, Gentry and her husband filed for bankruptcy listing their assets as zero.[12] In 1954, Viola Gentry received the Lady Hay Drummond-Hay Air Trophy in recognition of her efforts on behalf of women in aviation.[13] Gentry was a long time friend of the aviator Amelia Earhart, both of whom tried to help common friend Irene Craigmile Bolam find happiness by the means of introducing her to aviation.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Viola E. Gentry Project
  2. ^ a b c d North Carolina State Archives, government website, retrieved on February 26, 2010
  3. ^ WOMAN FLIER STAYS ALOFT EIGHT HOURS; Miss Viola Gentry Says She Will Claim World's Record for Duration Flight. Special to The New York Times. December 21, 1928, Friday, Page 22, 191 words, archived copy retrieved on February 26, 2010
  4. ^ Smith 1981, p. 78
  5. ^ Smith 1981, p. 79
  6. ^ MISS GENTRY IS BADLY HURT, HER PILOT KILLED IN CRASH; RIVALS IN AIR BEG FOR NEWS; VIEW OF THE WRECKAGE OF MISS VIOLA GENTRY'S ENDURANCE PLANE, Special to The New York Times, June 29, 1929, Retrieved on February 26, 2010
  7. ^ a b Viola Gentry in air first time since accident, Schenectady Gazette - 11 Jul 1930, retrieved on February 26, 2010
  8. ^ VIOLA GENTRY BACK AT RESTAURANT JOB; Flying Cashier, Hurt in Plane Crashes, Glad to Get Work-- Hopeful for Future. September 22, 1931, Tuesday; archived copy retrieved on February 26, 2010
  9. ^ VIOLA GENTRY QUITS FLYING; Pilot, Injured Three Years Ago, Will Return to Old Job. September 20, 1931, Sunday; archived copy retrieved on February 26, 2010
  10. ^ Women aviators in endurance hop December 10, 1933, archived copy from google news retrieved on February 26, 2010
  11. ^ START ENDURANCE FLIGHT.; Mrs. Marsalis and Viola Gentry at Miami Seek Women's Record. December 11, 1933, Monday, retrieved on February 26, 2010
  12. ^ VIOLA GENTRY BANKRUPT.; Aviatrix and Husband List Debts of $1,651 -- Assets Nothing. August 1, 1934, Wednesday, Page 7, 131 words, retrieved on February 26, 2010
  13. ^ VIOLA GENTRY HONORED; Lady Hay Drummond-Hay Air Trophy Presented to Flier June 21, 1954, Monday, Page 25, 102 words, retrieved on February 26, 2010
  14. ^ Amelia And The Original Irene Craigmile archived copy retrieved on February 27, 2010