Raymonde de Laroche

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Raymonde de Laroche
Raymonde de LaRoche Head.jpg
Raymonde de Laroche in August 1909
Born(1882-08-22)22 August 1882
Paris, France
Died18 July 1919(1919-07-18) (aged 36)
Le Crotoy airfield, France
Occupation Aviator

Raymonde de Laroche (22 August 1882 – 18 July 1919), born Elise Raymonde Deroche, was a French pilot and the first woman in the world to receive an aeroplane pilot's licence.

The French are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

Pilot licensing or certification refers to permits on how to operate aircraft that are issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in each country, establishing that the holder has met a specific set of knowledge and experience requirements. This includes taking a flying test. The certified pilot can then exercise a specific set of privileges in that nation's airspace. Despite attempts to harmonize the requirements between nations, the differences in certification practices and standards from place to place serve to limit full international validity of the national qualifications. In addition, U.S. pilots are certified, not licensed, although the word license is still commonly used informally. Legally, pilot certificates can be revoked by administrative action, whereas licensing requires intervention by the judiciary system.


Early life

Born on 22 August 1882 in Paris, Raymonde Deroche was the daughter of a plumber. She had a fondness for sports as a child, as well as for motorcycles and automobiles when she was older. As a young woman she became an actress and used the stage name "Raymonde de Laroche". Inspired by Wilbur Wright's 1908 demonstrations of powered flight in Paris and being personally acquainted with several aviators, including artist-turned-aviator Léon Delagrange, who was reputed to be the father of her son André, de Laroche determined to take up flying for herself. [1] :9–10

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Léon Delagrange French aviator, sculptor

Ferdinand Léon Delagrange was a pioneering French aviator and sculptor. Léon was ranked as one of the top aviators in the world. On 30 December 1909 he had broken all speed records at Juvisy-sur-Orge in France in an attempt to win the Michelin Cup. He did not succeed in beating Henry Farman’s record for distance, but did establish a new distance record for monoplanes and a new world speed record. He covered 124 miles in 2 hours and 32 minutes, maintaining an advantage speed of approximately 45 miles an hour.

Achievements in aviation

Raymonde de Laroche in her Voisin aeroplane in 1909 Mme. la Baronne de Laroche, aviatrice, au poste de direction d'un biplan Voisin (c. 1910).jpg
Raymonde de Laroche in her Voisin aeroplane in 1909

In October 1909, de Laroche appealed to her friend, aviator and aeroplane builder Charles Voisin, to instruct her in how to fly. On 22 October 1909, de Laroche went to the Voisin brothers' base of operations at Chalons, 90 miles (140 km) east of Paris. Voisin's aircraft could seat only one person, so she operated the plane by herself while he stood on the ground and gave instructions. After she mastered taxiing around the airfield, she lifted off and flew 300 yards (270 m). [1] :11–13 De Laroche's flight is often cited as the first by a woman in a powered heavier-than-air craft; there is evidence that two other women, P. Van Pottelsberghe and Thérèse Peltier, had flown the previous year with Henri Farman and Delagrange respectively as passengers but not as pilots. [2]

Charles Voisin French aviator

Charles Voisin was an early aviation pioneer from France. He was the younger brother of Gabriel Voisin, also an aviation pioneer.

Thérèse Peltier French artist

Thérèse Peltier was a French sculptor and aviator. Popularly believed to have been the first ever woman passenger in an airplane she may also have been the first woman to pilot a heavier-than-air craft. A friend of fellow sculptor Leon Delagrange when he became interested in aviation Peltier soon followed.

Henri Farman French pilot, aviator and aircraft designer and manufacturer

Henri Farman was an Anglo-French aviator and aircraft designer and manufacturer with his brother Maurice Farman. His family was British and he took French nationality in 1937.

Decades later, aviation journalist Harry Harper wrote that until de Laroche made her celebrated flight on the Voisin, she had only flown once, for a short hop, as a passenger; when she first took the controls, Charles Voisin expressly forbade her to attempt a flight; and after taxiing twice across the airfield, she took off, flying "ten or fifteen feet high" and handling the controls with "cool, quick precision". [3]

Although Gabriel Voisin wrote, "... my brother [was] entirely under her thumb", [4] the story of de Laroche as a headstrong woman making the flight after scant preparation and against Voisin's orders almost certainly romanticises what actually took place. Flight magazine, a week after the flight, reported: "For some time the Baroness has been taking lessons from M. Chateau, the Voisin instructor, at Chalons, and on Friday of last week she was able to take the wheel for the first time. This initial voyage into the air was only a very short one, and terra firma was regained after 300 yards (270 m)." [5] Flight was also responsible for bestowing the title "Baroness" upon de Laroche, as she was not of noble birth. [1] :9Flight added that on the following day she circled the flying field twice, "the turnings being made with consummate ease. During this flight of about four miles (6 km) there was a strong gusty wind blowing, but after the first two turnings the Baroness said that it did not bother her, as she had the machine completely under control." [5]

Gabriel Voisin French aviation pioneer

Gabriel Voisin was an aviation pioneer and the creator of Europe's first manned, engine-powered, heavier-than-air aircraft capable of a sustained (1 km), circular, controlled flight, which was made by Henry Farman on January 13, 1908 near Paris, France. During World War I the company founded by Voisin became a major producer of military aircraft, notably the Voisin III. Subsequently, he switched to the design and production of luxury automobiles under the name Avions Voisin.

Nobility privileged social class

Nobility is a social class in aristocracy, normally ranked immediately under royalty, that possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in a society and with membership thereof typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary, and vary by country and era. The Medieval chivalric motto "noblesse oblige", meaning literally "nobility obligates", explains that privileges carry a lifelong obligation of duty to uphold various social responsibilities of, e.g., honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership roles or positions, that lives on by a familial or kinship bond.

On 8 March 1910, [1] :14 de Laroche became the first woman in the world to receive a pilot licence when the Aero-Club of France issued her licence #36 of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (International Aeronautics Federation or F.A.I.).

<i>Fédération Aéronautique Internationale</i> voluntary association

The Fédération aéronautique internationale, is the world governing body for air sports. It was founded on 14 October 1905, and is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. It maintains world records for aeronautical activities including ballooning, aeromodeling, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and also for human spaceflight.

A postcard photo claiming to show Raymonde de Laroche in flight in her Voisin biplane at the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne Reims airshow in 1910, but actually showing an unknown Voisin biplane at the 1909 event, as obvious from the buildings Raymonde de Laroche in her Voisin biplane, Reims air show - 191007.jpg
A postcard photo claiming to show Raymonde de Laroche in flight in her Voisin biplane at the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne Reims airshow in 1910, but actually showing an unknown Voisin biplane at the 1909 event, as obvious from the buildings

De Laroche participated in aviation meetings at Heliopolis in Egypt as well as Saint Petersburg, Budapest and Rouen. During the show in St. Petersburg, she was personally congratulated by Tsar Nicholas II. There, she was presented once again as "Baroness" de Laroche. Thereafter, the title became commonly used. [1] :16

In July 1910, de Laroche was participating in the week-long airshow at Reims in France. On 8 July, her aeroplane crashed, and she suffered such severe injuries that her recovery was in doubt, but two years later, she was fit again and had returned to flying. On 26 September 1912, she and Charles Voisin were involved in a car crash. Voisin was killed, and she was severely injured. [6]

On 25 November 1913 de Laroche won the Aero-Club of France's Femina Cup for a non-stop long-distance flight of over 4 hours duration. [7]

During World War I, as flying was considered too dangerous for women, she served as a military driver, chauffeuring officers from the rear zones to the front under fire. [1] :20

In June 1919 de Laroche set two women's altitude records, [8] one at 15,700 feet (4,800 m); and also the women's distance record, at 201 miles (323 km). [1] :21

Death and legacy

On 18 July 1919, [9] de Laroche, who was a talented engineer, went to the airfield at Le Crotoy as part of her plan to become the first female test pilot. [10] She co-piloted an experimental aircraft (whether she flew this is not known); on its landing approach the aeroplane went into a dive and crashed, killing both de Laroche and the co-pilot. [1] :21

There is a statue of de Laroche at Paris–Le Bourget Airport in France. [11]

From 6 March to 12 March 2010, to celebrate the Centennial of Licensed Women Pilots, women pilots from eight countries on three continents used 20 types of aircraft to establish a new world record: 310 girls and women introduced to piloting by women pilots in one week. [12]

Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is held annually during the week including 8 March, which marks the anniversary of Raymonde de Laroche's pilot licence. [13]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Eileen F. Lebow (7 April 2003). Before Amelia: Women Pilots in the Early Days of Aviation. Brassey's. ISBN   978-1-57488-532-3 . Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  2. Early Aviators – Peltier Biography
  3. Air Trails, July 1953. "The Brave Baroness – First Licensed Ladybird" by Harry Harper.
  4. Voisin, G.: Mes 10000 Cerfs-Volants. Editions Table Ronde, 1960. ISBN   2-7103-2012-6.
  5. 1 2 Flight, page 695, 30 October 1909.
  6. Early Aviators – Charles Voisin Biography
  7. "Mme de Laroche gagne la Coup Femina". La Revue aérienne (in French). Dec 10, 1913. p. 669. Retrieved Nov 29, 2017.
  8. University of Houson, "Engines of our Ingenuity, No. 1813: Raymonde de Laroche", undated article by John H. Lienhard, retrieved on 27 March 2008.
  9. Polacco, Michel (2 November 2017). Pourquoi des avions s'écrasent-ils encore ? [Why are planes crashing again?] (in French). Hachette. p. 22. ISBN   9782851209764.
  10. "Raymonde de Laroche". Women in Aviation and Space History. National Air and Space Museum . Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  11. "The Baroness of Flight". Historic Wings. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  12. "Women Pilots' Record: 310 First Flights". AVweb. 1 April 2010. Archived from the original on 4 April 2010.
  13. "WOAW - Frequently Asked Questions". Women of Aviation Worldwide Week. Retrieved 28 February 2019.