Flying Circus

In the 1930s and 1940s plane to plane and car to plane transfers, wing walkers and air rides were featured in traveling flying circuses, which seems a fitting name for this eclectic collection of flight facts, quotes and lore.


“I’m fed up with it. I’m sick and tired of the delays, tired of the waiting. I’m hanging it up. You can have it. This flight will be my last flight.”

-Announcement of Eastern Airlines pilot Raymond Davidson, who taxied back to the terminal and walked off his plane in protest against delays at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport, NY Times 25 Jul 1986


Harriet Quimby was the first licensed woman pilot in the United States. To obtain her license she had to land her aircraft within 100 feet of where she left the ground. On July 31, 1911 on her first test she landed too far from the spot, but the next day she landed seven feet nine inches from the mark. Thus on August 1, 1911, she received Federacion Aeronautic Internationale (Aero Club of America) certificate number 37. She was the second woman in the world to obtain a license, the Baroness Raymonde de la Roche of France having received hers in 1910.

-Smithsonian Studies in Air and Space Number 2, United States Women in Aviation through World War I by Claudia M. Oakes, Smithsonian Institution Press


“You define a good flight by negatives: you didn’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you are grateful.”

The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux, Houghton Mifflin 1979


“Charles ‘Speed’ Holman came to Northwest Airways Inc as its first pilot in 1926. Having won the 1924 National Pulitzer before joining Northwest, he went on to win numerous other air races including the $10,000 Thompson Trophy National in 1930. He continued to dazzle folks on the air show circuit as well. In 1928 he established a world record of 1433 consecutive loops. He died in Omaha Nebraska on May 17, 1931. An air show crowd watched in horror as Holman’s safety belt became unfastened during an inverted pass before them.”

Northwest Orient by Bill Yenne, Bison Books 1986


“Job qualifications for early stewardesses were strict, as (Helen) Richardson recalled in a 1969 Northwest Airlines newsletter, now preserved in her scrapbook. Many, if not all, stewardesses were registered nurses. They had to be ‘unmarried; age 21–25; 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall; weight not over 120 pounds.’”

Minnesota Historical Society