Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By David Ganezer
Observer Staff Writer 

Channeling Amelia Earhart: 99's Re-enact Powder Puff Derby, Flying from Santa Monica Airport

1929 Event also starred 20 women pilots flying from SMO to San Bernardino and beyond

 

August 29, 2019

Connie Schur

Santa Monica airport hosted a re-enactment of the Powder Puff Derby.

Twenty women pilots and others re-enacted a 1929 air race that began at the Santa Monica airport. In the original air-race, 20 female pilots took off from Santa Monica on August 18, 1929.

The re-enactment was held on August 18, 2019, 90 years to the day after the original race. The twenty competitors in 1929 included Amelia Earhart.

"We are happy to report that our reenactment of the First National Women's Air Race in 1929 was a success," wrote Connie Schur in a press release. "Due to an overcast sky we left Santa Monica airport at noon instead of 11;00am. Spirits were high, costumes were wonderful and everyone enjoyed themselves.”

Noelle Donfeld, Marian Partee, and Cindy O’Connor.  wrote a musical about the 1929 First National Women's Air Derby , which they nicknamed the "Powder Puff Derby." Three members of the cast performed songs from the musical when the modern 99’s landed at San Bernadino, the first stop in the 1929 Air Derby.

The Women's Air Derby was the first official women-only air race in the United States, taking place during the 1929 National Air Races. Humorist Will Rogers referred to it as the Powder Puff Derby, the name by which the race is most commonly known. Rogers was the MC of the 1929 event.

To qualify for the 1929 Power Puff Derby, pilots had to have at least 100 hours of solo flight, which included a minimum 25 hours of cross-country flying (these were the same rules that applied to men competing in the National Air Races). Of the twenty competitors, eighteen were from the United States, including Amelia Earhart.

Nineteen pilots took off from Santa Monica, California on August 18, 1929 (another left the next day). Marvel Crosson died, in a crash apparently caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, but fifteen made it to Cleveland, Ohio, nine days later.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the 99s is based at the Santa Monica Airport. They “are a chapter of the Southwest Section of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots," says the group's website. "The Los Angeles Chapter was one of the original chapters of the Ninety-Nines, established on March 2, 1932.” The group's website is http://www.LA99s.org. See also a link to their musical web site.http://powderpuffpilotsmusical.com/#!/synopsis/

Connie Schur

The Women's Air Derby was the first official women-only air race in the United States, taking place during the 1929 National Air Races. Humorist Will Rogers referred to it as the Powder Puff Derby, the name by which the race is most commonly known. Nineteen pilots took off from Santa Monica, California on August 18, 1929.

The Women's Air Derby was the first official women-only air race in the United States, taking place during the 1929 National Air Races. Humorist Will Rogers referred to it as the Powder Puff Derby, the name by which the race is most commonly known. Nineteen pilots took off from Santa Monica, California on August 18, 1929 (another left the next day). Marvel Crosson died, in a crash apparently caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, but fifteen made it to Cleveland, Ohio, nine days later.

During the first two decades of heavier-than-air flying, the few women fliers in the United States became acquainted with one another during air meets and air rodeos. The bonds among the top women pilots were strengthened in the first real race for female pilots—the Women’s Air Derby during the 1929 National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition. Air-race promoter Cliff Henderson was the founder of the first Women’s Air Derby, which he patterned after the men’s transcontinental air races. (Ironically, Henderson would ban women from competing in the 1934 Bendix Trophy and National Air Races after a crash which claimed the life of pilot Florence Klingensmith in 1933.)

 

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