Laura Ingalls (14 December 1893) was the first woman to pilot an airplane across the continental United States. On 09 October 1930, she completed a nine-stop, east-to-west trip from Roosevelt Field, New York, to Glendale, California.
The daughter of a wealthy New York family, Ingalls became enthralled with aviation in 1928:
She was one of the first women to earn a federal commercial transport license from the Department of Commerce’s Aeronautics Branch, a classification that authorized her to fly any airplane on approved transport routes.
Less than a year after enrolling in the flying school, Ingalls set her first record in women’s aviation — 344 consecutive loops over Lambert-St. Louis Field. Although she bested the previous record of 46 loops by nearly 300, she told reporters she was “terribly disappointed” that a pause to pump gas from a reserve tank meant another 66 loops didn’t count.
In 1934, Ingalls flew 17,000 miles: from Mexico to Chile; across the Andes Mountains to Rio de Janeiro; on to Cuba; and then to Floyd Bennett Field in New York. She set several records on that journey and received two international awards:
- the first American woman to fly over the Andes,
- the first solo flight around South America in a landplane and
- the first woman to fly from North America to South America.
Ingalls was active in various peace groups that opposed U.S. involvement in World War II. In 1939, she dropped “peace pamphlets” from her airplane while flying over the restricted airspace above the White House.
In 1941, the US government charged Ingalls with failing to register as a paid agent of Nazi Germany, a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. Germany had encouraged her activities in the America First Committee.
She died on 10 January 1967.