Editor’s Note: In honor of the 90th anniversary of the first Women’s National Air Derby, the Yuma Sun is revisiting our pages from the past, and reprinting coverage from our archives of the event. This story originally appeared in the Yuma Morning Sun on Aug. 21, 1929:
By HARRY HERMAN
United Press Staff Correspondent
DOUGLAS, Ariz., Aug. 20 (UP) — Fourteen of the survivors in the Santa Monica to Cleveland Women’s Air Derby were checked in safely at the local airport as the entrants made their overnight stop at the end of the third day’s flight.
Mrs. Keith Miller, of New Zealand, was still due late tonight. Her plane was marooned in Arizona cactus, 24 miles northeast of here after she had been forced down by exhaustion of gasoline.
After she had walked 18 miles and obtained gasoline through a telephone call, it was discovered that cactus had ripped the fuselage covering necessitating another trip here for materials, she plans to continue.
Mrs. Louis McPhetridge Thaden, of Pittsburgh, was leading the heavy plane class in elapsed time, having been in the air exactly 5:11:01 or racing time. Phoebe Omlie, of Memphis, held her lead in the light plane class with 6:21:27.
Mrs. Louise Thaden of Pittsburgh took the lead over her 13 daring rivals today when she flew here from Phoenix in one hour, 33 minutes and 41 seconds. Her remarkable time today placed her ahead in elapsed time standing at 5:11:01 since the contestants left Santa Monica.
As the fliers turned up their planes for the take-off this morning at the Phoenix airport, the distressing news was received that the body of Miss Marvel Crosson, one of the foremost women pilots in America, had been found in a desert brush near Wellton, Ariz.
Elapsed time at the heavy division planes follow:
Mrs. Louise Thaden, Pittsburgh, 5:11:01.
Gladys O’Donnell, Long Beach, Calif., 5:19:07.
Ruth Nichols, New York, 5:46:37.
Amelia Earhart, New York, 5:47:33.
Florence Barnes, San Marino, Calif., 5:54:41.
Ruth Elder, Hollywood, 6:47:50.
Neva Paris, Great Neck, L.T., 7:00:32.
Blanche Noyes, Cleveland, 7:04:29.
Margaret Perry, Beverly Hills, Calif., 7:28:48.
Opal Kunz, New York, 9:45:21.
In the light planes division, Phoebe Omlie, Memphis, maintained her lead with an elapsed time of 6:21:27. She was followed by Edith Foltz, Portland, in 7:38:11.
Mary E. Van Mack, Detroit, who dropped out of the competition on the first lap, accompanied the other 14 here today “merely for the sport of the thing.” She failed to reach San Bernardino Sunday night and did not attempt to make up the lost time.
At the time the news of Miss Crosson’s death reached Phoenix, Thea Rasche and Clara Fahy, two of the entrants who had mishaps, made charges to airport officials that someone had tampered with the mechanism of their planes.
The charges added further to dissension among the pilots which has marked the progress of the flight from the starting point at San Bernardino, all of the entrants objected to the route to be followed to Phoenix but a compromise was reached.
This matter scarcely had been set aside from the minds of the pilots when Miss Crosson’s plane crashed in the mesquite and arrow weed brush near Wellton.
The crash added suspicion that some of the planes may have been weakened to lessen the chances of some of the competitors. The charges of sabotage by Miss Rasche and Miss Fahy were supported today by Bobbi Trout, former holder of the women’s endurance record, and Opal Kunz, New York, who said they believed their instruments had not been adjusted properly.
PHOENIX, Ariz., Aug. 20 (UP) — Two belated flyers in the women’s air derby from Santa Monica to Cleveland, swooped down on the local airport this afternoon.
Miss May Haizlip, Kansas City, arrived here at 12:09:51, and Miss Thea Rasche, German aviatrix, landed at 1:28:30.
Miss Haizlip took off at 2 o’clock for the 200 mile hop to Douglas, Ariz., today’s overnight stop. The German aviatrix decided to stay in Phoenix tonight. She plans to leave here at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday for Douglas.
Miss Haizlip didn’t take off from Santa Monica until Monday afternoon, having been delayed in her start by failure of her plane to arrive on time.
Thea Rasche had damaged her plane when she was forced to make a landing Monday near Holtville, Calif.
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 20 (UP) — Robert P. Holliday, Santa Monica newspaper publisher, announced today he had wired Cliff Henderson, manager of the National Air meet in Cleveland asking that the women’s air derby be called off pending more adequate inspection and servicing of the planes.
At the same time, the district attorney’s office in San Bernardino announced that a complete investigation would be made of charges of sabotage advanced by certain entrants who had trouble with their planes after they left here for Yuma Monday.
It was understood that the United States department of commerce also intended to investigate the sabotage reports.
WINSLOW, Ariz., Aug. 20 (UP) — Marvel Crosson who was killed in a plane crash near Wellton, Ariz., Monday, was in a crash at the Winslow airport nearly two weeks ago.