Raymonde de la Roche, the first woman in the world to obtain a pilot's license.

The month of May turns thoughts and thanks to mothers that inspire us.  Aviation enthusiasts can mark the occasion with a special thanks to the “Mother of Aviation” Raymonde de la Roche, the first woman in the world to obtain a pilot’s license in 1910.

De la Roche set the precedent for women around the world in aviation.  She inspired Harriet Quimby, Bessie Coleman, and other women to push through the gender barriers proving that they too could fly.

Born on August 22, 1882 in Paris, France as Elise Raymonde Deroche, de la Roche had the beginnings of fame as an actress with her stage name of Raymonde de la Roche. Her interest in flying began in 1908 when Wilbur Wright arrived in Paris to perform a flight demonstration.  She began flight instruction with aviator Charles Voisin and earned License #36 from the International Aeronautics Federation (F.A.I.) on March 8, 1910 at the young age of twenty-four.

Some historians suggest that when de la Roche asked Voisin to teach her to fly the plane, he had no opposition, although he did not give her permission to actually take off. He only allowed her allowed her to taxi on the runway and around the aerodrome.

De la Roche decided to take matters into her own hands and announced that she was going to attempt to fly.

As it happened, an English reporter was also at the field that day. The reporter and Voisin watched in amazement as de la Roche rolled down the strip and became airborne. She only took the craft up to about 15 feet but it was still the first air solo by a woman.

De la Roche entered the Reims air race as the only woman pilot.  She was seriously injured in a crash. But after a lengthy recovery, she returned to the skies.  De la Roche went on to set new women’s flight records including her altitude record of 15,700 feet (4758 m).  She also won the Femina Cup for nonstop flying at a total of four hours.

De Laroche was known to make this commentary on her fearlessness of flying, “Most of us spread the hazards of a lifetime over a number of years. Others pack them into minutes or hours. In any case, what is to happen, will happen. It may be that I shall tempt Fate once too often, but it is to the air that I have dedicated myself and I fly always without the slightest fear.”

By the summer of 1919, de la Roche was an accomplished pilot and also a talented engineer and mother to a son André with French aviation pioneer Léon Delagrange. She was determined to push further by pursuing a possible career as the first female test pilot.  She reported to the airfield at Le Crotoy for duty.  Tragically, the aircraft went into a dive on its landing approach and both de la Roche and the pilot were killed.

A statue of de la Roche, Mother of Aviation, stands at Le Bourget airport in France.

Sources: For the Love of Flight, National Air and Space Museum, voices.yahoo.com

More from Global Aviation’s May 2014 Newsletter:


© 2012 Global Aviation. All Rights Reserved.