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#29 of 30 Betty Skelton Passes
Sep 15, 2011 (7:38 am)
Who was Betty Skelton? I first read about this amazing woman in a "Collectible Automobile" article some time back. Here's her obituary:
Betty Skelton | Aviator, Indy driver, 85
Betty Skelton, 85, an audacious aviatrix and stock-car racer often called the "First Lady of Firsts" for her record-setting feats in airplanes and automobiles during the 1940s and '50s, died of cancer Aug. 31 in The Villages, Fla.
She held "more combined aircraft and automotive records than anyone in history," according to a biography on the museum's website.
A three-time women's international aerobatics champion, she was the first woman to execute the "inverted ribbon cut," a breathtaking maneuver in which a pilot flies upside down about 12 feet from the ground to slice a ribbon strung between two poles. She also set two world light-plane altitude records, reaching 26,000 feet in 1949 and 29,000 feet in 1951.
She donated her diminutive biplane, a red-and-white Pitts Special she called "Little Stinker," to the Smithsonian. The name was inspired by the plane's tendency to make a ground loop on landing.
After retiring from stunt flying, she became the first female test driver in the auto industry and the first woman to drive an Indy car. She set a land speed record in 1956, hitting 145 m.p.h. in a beefed-up Corvette. She was the first woman inducted into the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame and the NASCAR International Motorsports Hall of Fame. - Los Angeles Times