Capsule Biographies

A : B : C : D : E : F : G : H : I : J : K : L : M
N : O : P : Q : R : S : T : U : V : W : Y : Z


Born 1889. Died 1970.

Blanche Stuart Scott, Aviation pioneer. In 1910, after becoming the first woman to drive across the US, she soloed at the Curtiss Flying School at Hammondsport on 6 Sept 1910), becoming one of the first three female pilots. Although never licensed, she spent the next six years (1910-16) performing on the aerial exhibition circuit with a number of aerial teams. After a 32-year hiatus from flying (1916-48) she became the first woman to pilot a jet aircraft in a USAF T-33 copiloted by Charles Yeager. She worked as a public relations consultant to the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB (1954-?).


Born Kiev, Russia, May 25, 1889. Died October 26, 1972.

Learning of the works of the Wright brothers and Count Zeppelin, Igor Sikorsky's interest in aviation was kindled as a boy. Graduated from Petrograd Naval College, studied engineering in Paris, returned to Kiev in 1907 to enter Polytechnical Institute. In 1909, he went back to Paris—then the aeronautical center of Europe—to learn more about the fascinating science of flight. Having learned what he could of aviation as it was then known in Europe, he bought an Anzani engine and went home to begin construction a rotary-wing aircraft.

His first attempts failed due to a lack of power and an understanding of the complex rotary-wing art. Undaunted, he turned his efforts to conventional aircraft and found success with the S-2, the second airplane of his design and construction. His fifth airplane, the S-5, brought him national recognition as well as FAI pilot license Number 64. In 1912 his S-6-A received the highest award at Moscow's Aviation Exhibition, and that year his aircraft won first prize in military competitions at Petrograd. This led to a position as head of the aviation subsidiary of the Russian Baltic Railroad Car Works, where, as a result of clogged carburetor and subsequent engine failure, he conceived the idea of an aircraft having more than one engine—a radical idea at the time. The result of this was an engineering project that gave the world its first multi-engine airplane, the four-engined "Grand." This revolutionary aircraft also offered an enclosed cabin, upholstered chairs, lavatory, even an exterior catwalk on the fuselage where passengers could walk while in flight.

There followed an even bigger aircraft, Ilia Mourometz, named for a legendary tenth-century folk hero. More than 70 military versions of the Ilia Mourometz were built for use as bombers during The World War. The Revolution ended Mr. Sikorsky's career in Russian aviation, and he emigrated to France, then to the USA in 1919. Unable to find a position in aviation he resorted to teaching and lecturing in New York, mostly to fellow emigrants. Then some students and friends who knew of his reputation in Russia pooled their resources in 1923 to fund the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation.

The first product from the young and financially shaky concern was the S-29-A ("A" for America), a twin-engine, all-metal transport which proved a forerunner of the modern airliner. Other aircraft designs followed, but the company achieved its most notable success with the twin-engine S-38 amphibian, which Pan American Airways used to open air routes to Central and South America. Later, as a subsidiary of United Aircraft Corporation, the company produced luxurious Flying Clippers which pioneered commercial air transportation across both oceans. The last Sikorsky flying boat, S-44, would for years hold the record for fastest transatlantic flight.

The dormant concept of the helicopter resurfaced, and Sikorsky turned once again to notes and sketches he had jotted down ideas for possible designs, some of which were patented. On Sep 14, 1939, he took his VS-300 a few feet off the ground to give the western hemisphere its first practical helicopter, the child from which today's helicopter industry grew. Military contracts followed and, in 1943, large-scale manufacture made the R-4 the world's first production helicopter.

Awards and honors accorded to Igor Sikorsky would fill many pages, and include the National Medal of Science, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the Collier Trophy, the USAF Academy's Thomas D White National Defense Award, the Guggenheim Medal, and the Royal Aeronautical Society's Silver Medal.

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 1968.

Even after his retirement in 1957 at age 68, Sikorsky continued to work as an engineering consultant for his company, and was at his desk the day before he died.

  -- The Aviation Careers of Igor Sikorsky; Cochrane, Hardesty, Lee (Washington Univ 1989)
  -- Sky Pioneer; Robert M Bartlett (Scribners Sons 1947)
  -- Igor Sikorsky: The Russian Years; K N Finne (Smithsonian 1987, Airlife 1988)
  -- Igor Sikorsky: His Three Careers in Aviation; Frank J Delear (Dodd Mead 1969, Bantam 1992)
  -- Recollections and Thoughts of a Pioneer; Igor Sikorsky (Wings Club 1964)
  -- Sikorsky; John W R Taylor (Arcadia 1998)
  -- The Story of the Winged-S; autobiography (Hale 1949, Dodd Mead 1958)



Col Lowell H Smith. Aviation pioneer, Army officer and pilot. He first became an aviator for the Mexican Army (1915), but in 1917 joined the Army Air Service. He pioneered air-to-air refueling of in the early 1920s and commanded the Army's Around the World Flight (6 Apr-28 Sept 1924). For these services he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal respectively. He held 16 records for military aircraft in speed, endurance, and distance.


1893. Died January 1, 1986

Charles Ingram Stanton. Pilot, engineer, and aviation administrator. After graduation from Tufts College (BS, 1917) he joined the Army Air Service, serving in the 122nd Aero Sqn (1917-18). Following WW1 he joined the Air Mail Service of the Post Office Dept (1918-22), advancing from test pilot through Assistant General Superintendent. Stanton resigned from the Post Office in 1922 and became General Secretary of the National Aeronautics Association (1922-24). He worked briefly in the Army Engineer Corps (Surveyman, 1924) before moving to Miami to work as a civil engineer (1925-27). He then joined the Commerce Department and served in the Aeronautics Branch and its successor, the CAB (1927-48).

Stanton was involved in all areas of airways work, from layout to administration, as Acting Administrator (1940-42), Administrator (1942-44) and Deputy Administrator of Civil Aeronautics (1944-48), and was involved in international negotiations on air navigation (1944-46). In 1948 he resigned and joined the Technological Institute of Aeronautics of Brazil as professor of Air Navigation and Chief of the Airways Division (1948-52). After his contract expired in 1952, Stanton returned to the US as operational advisor to Bell Labs (1952-56), assisting in their work to improve the Air Traffic Control System. From 1956 on he worked in several capacities on airways and navigation, including periods on the Air Navigation Development Board (1956) and Airways Modernization Board (Chief, Airport Development Division, 1957). In 1958 he became Chief of the Airports Division, Research and Development Bureau (1958-62), of the newly established FAA, where he remained until he retired.


Born Wellsville KS, October 26, 1898. Died April 3, 1975.

Lloyd Carlton Stearman was schooled in Harper KS, then attended Kansas State College in 1917. Higher education was cut short when he enlisted in the Naval Reserve Flying Corps in Aug 1918. After ground school at the University of Washington, he was transferred to North Island, San Diego, where he began his flying career by learning to fly a Curtiss N-9 seaplane.

Military service was brief, as the war ended three months later, and in December he returned to Wichita to work as a draftsman for an architect. When an opening for a mechanic was advertised by the new Laird company, he decided that he would rather work around airplanes, hired on, and soon became foreman of the assembly division. He next transferred into design drafting and was soon promoted to assistant engineer. During spare time he resumed his flight training at the airfield, and there formed a friendship with fellow Laird employee, Walter Beech.

When Laird reorganized in 1924 as Swallow Airplane Company, Stearman was the chief engineer, and designed its first airplane in the spring of that year. However, a conflict of design ideas with Mattie Laird precipitated his and Beech's resignations, and the two, along with Clyde Cessna, pooled their resources and talents to form the Travel Air Company in Feb 1924. There he created the first half-dozen planes. However, an ambition to build planes with his own name of their tails could not be contained, so he finally gave up his interests in Travel Air to form his own company in Santa Monica CA, opening its doors in May 1926, only to relocate operations back in Wichita early the next year.

He remained as president and chief designer-engineer, producing an historic line of civil and military airplanes, until mid-1931. Faced with the sagging economy of the Great Depression, he had joined conglomerate United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation in 1930, but became disenchanted with their invasive corporate policies, and resigned in 1931 to go back to California. With Walter Varney and Lockheed's Robert Gross, Stearman-Varney Co was formed in Alameda to experiment with new ideas, but when Lockheed was put up for sale, Gross bought the company for $40,000, and made Stearman its president.

In January 1935 he resigned and went with the Bureau of Commerce as a CAA Inspector. During one of his field tours, he met designer Dean Hammond and was so impressed with Hammond's innovative twin-boom design that it led to yet another partnership, and formation of the Stearman-Hammond Co to produce the Model Y-125, which attracted only 15 buyers despite its superior handling and gentle flight characteristics.

Other roads in Stearman's meandering career led to a stint as vice president of Transiar Co (San Francisco), 1938-39, then as manager of the airplane division of Harvey Aluminum Co, who produced aircraft cowlings during WW2, next his own engineering operation in Dos Palos CA, designing crop sprayers, then his Inland Aviation Co of 1946 at Van Nuys CA, as fate would have it converting surplus Boeing-Stearman trainers into crop dusters, and finally the Stearman-Hammel Co, designers and manufacturers of farm equipment.

Stearman returned to aviation and Lockheed in 1955 to work on VTOL projects and other advanced designs, retiring in 1968 to produce his final design as the Stearman MP (for Multi-Purpose). Deteriorating health, however, kept this project from becoming a reality, and he withdrew from activity, passing away at age 77.

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 1989. (— Peter Bergen)


Born at Ft Payne AL, July 11, 1894. Died January 26, 1932.

Eddie Stinson left school in 1910, at age 16, and set out on his own heading for St Louis, where he heard of two men building an airplane -- quite an novelty in those days. There, with youthful exuberance, he conviced the men that he should be their pilot since neither of them had any flying experience. He did, however, neglect to mention that he, as well, had never even seen an airplane before, let alone fly one.

Once the kitelike contraption was finished, it was towed into a farmer's pasture where the boy took the controls and started off on his solo flight. In a cloud of blue smoke, the plane lurched forward, and either with a timely gust of wind or a bump in the ground, it sprang into the air, soared momentarily, then sank back to earth with a crunch that collapsed one of its wings. While its distance was measured in feet, and its altitude not much above the tall grass, the flight was declared a success.

As payment, the builders gave Stinson the aircraft and went on to other ventures, and the boy was allowed to keep his plane in the pasture, plus room and board, in return for helping the owner with farm chores. In time, the plane was repaired, and a second flight proved conclusively that Stinson was no ace pilot when it was reduced to kindling on its second "landing."

Working locally, he managed to save up $500, enough for flight instruction at the Wright's school in Dayton. After graduation, he began the life of a barnstormer, finally ending up in San Antonio, where he established a base of operations with sister Marjorie, the Stinson School for Aviation. In 1917 and 1918 they trained Army pilots at nearby Kelly Field, for which Eddie received a lieutenant's commission.

Quick to seize an opportunity, at war's end he and a friend flew two surplus Army planes to Newport News, where they offered rides to disembarking soldiers—they had seen airplanes overhead in France, but not close up—at $10, and in a few weeks earned a small fortune. After that episode, he worked in the East as test pilot and mechanic, and in 1920 bought the Dixie Flying Field in Birmingham to start another flight school. After a marriage and numerous meandering careers, he finally chose Detroit as his new home, and concentrated his flying activities there.

He convinced a group of Detroit businessmen to invest in his idea of an aircraft company, and thus was the Stinson Airplane Syndicate formed in 1925. There he designed and buit the first cabin plane with an electric starter, a heater, wheel brakes and—best of all—flight stability, the hallmark of Stinsons to come.

(More to come...)


Katherine: born 1891. Died 1977.
Marjorie: born 1896. Died 1975.

In the notable feminine side of the Stinson family, Katherine was first to take up flying. Flying lessons cost her $500, and the family piano was sold to help pay for them, but she never needed the piano again. She was the fourth woman in the U S to earn a pilot's license, which she did on July 24, 1912 in a Wright B. Only 21 at the time, and tipping the scales 101 pounds, she became known as the "Flying Schoolgirl," flying exhibitions all over the country, even adding lights and doing loops at night. She set many records, performed in Japan and China, and was the first woman sworn in by the Post Office as an air mail carrier.

Younger sister, Marjorie, learned to fly and attended the Wright School of Aviation in Dayton, earning her license on August 12, 1914, the ninth U S woman to do so and the youngest at age 18. Like her sister, she became an air mail carrier.

In 1915 Katherine and Marjorie instructed in their own Aviation School in San Antonio with their brothers, Eddie and Jack, as mechanics. There they trained Canadian cadets for the war, who became known as the "Texas Escadrille," and Marjorie was called the "flying schoolmarm." The girls also flew many exhibitions for the Liberty Loan Drive.

The Stinson School closed in 1917. Katherine became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Europe, where she contracted influenza, which eventually turned into tuberculosis in 1920, causing her retirement from aviation. She married in 1928 and moved to Santa Fe NM, where she designed houses. She was 86 when she died in 1977.

Marjorie, after their school closed, barnstormed fairs and air meets until 1928, giving up flying in 1930 to work as a draftsman for the War Department. When she died in 1975 at age 79, her ashes were symbolically scattered over Stinson Field in Texas from a 1931 Curtiss Pusher. (— K O Eckland)


Born at Quincy IL --- 1889. Died at Phoenix AZ March 20, 1956
William Bushnell Stout, 76, pioneer automotive and aviation inventor, He was prominent in Detroit from 1914 until he moved to Phoenix several years ago. Stout designed the classic Ford tri-motor plane; built the first all-metal plane for the Navy, built the first commercial monoplane, operated the first exclusive passenger air service in 1926, and was active in cicic life in Detroit. The mop-haired inventor, who good-naturedly said he frequently had been called a "screwball" because of his advanced engineering ideas, adapted aircraft principles to auto motive design in the construction of his "Scarab" car, a rear-engine, plastic-bodied vehicle. He frequently said a combination automobile-airplane would become commonplace. Stout was an engineering graduate of the University of Minnesota. He had been a newspaper columnist, editor of automotive magazines and chief engineer for a Detroit motorcar manufacturing company. His accomplishments included development of small pancake engines, folding portable houses, a pusher-type plane and numerous other items. He was an accomplished pianist and a pen and ink artist. He was a former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers.