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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Women can Fly?!? Airline tickets are $1?!? This I gotta see!

I have to admit, I do have a lot of scraps of paper. Some of it is meaningless and was only kept because it merely tagged along with other scraps of paper I have found. Some of it I knew would be interesting if I could locate the back-story.

In the 30's air-flight was a still a novelty. It was new and developing. Anyone with the will to dare could get a license, learn to fly, and maybe even buy a plane.  It wasn't for the poor, more for the rich and adventurous.  There were many small airfields that cropped up as this new technology grew into business opportunity.  Crop dusting, fire watching, mail transportation, and even flight training were viable trades created by the advent of flight. There were many opportunities for somebody with ideas and a plane and there were also folks looking to experience flight first hand.

These are 2 sides of the same ticket (Pardon the color shift.) which came from a very beat up scrap book at a Danbury, CT estate sale. Every so often I will find one of these sentimental compendiums and curse the family for not keeping it, and also curse the owner for the concrete-like glue that damages these paper gems.  Regardless, the ticket face above was proof for the holder that they had experienced the thrill of a lifetime, or at least the experience of the century. More exciting than this thrill was that patrons of the Interstate Airways Corporation,  on any given day, could have been the passenger in a plane piloted by...a female! (Please excuse the intonation that women can't or shouldn't fly...I am still working on the sarcastic font called "Sar-talic" which would clearly indicate the sarcasm intended.) This one little ticket led me to the most interesting lady...
Read the (back) story I "landed" from this Hartford Currant article written in 1996:

Time Clouds Early Aviator's Story

Why Did Mary Louise Sansom Stop Flying?

November 08, 1996|By BARBARA A. NAGY; Courant Staff Writer
Aviation was little more than a sport in the early 1930s when Mary Louise Sansom, wearing goggles and carrying her cocker spaniel Bomber in the back seat of her biplane, was flying out of Brainard Field.

The first woman in New England to earn a commercial pilot's license, Sansom ran an air transport service at Brainard, flew stunts at shows in Hartford and Springfield and raced her plane occasionally in national meets.
A collection of her trophies, awards, newspaper clippings and flight logbooks -- plus a pilot's license signed by Orville Wright -- will go up for auction at the Algonquin Hotel in New York Wednesday as part of R.M. Smythe & Co.'s annual autumn autograph sale.

The collection provides a peek into Sansom's personal world -- the death of her first husband in a fiery 1930 crash at Brainard, a second marriage to another pilot, her management of Interstate Airways in Hartford and her associations with her idol, Amelia Earhart, and other aviators.
The items also open a window on the role that women -- Sansom and scores of others -- played in the development of U.S. aviation.

But at the same time, they raise puzzling questions about why she suddenly stopped flying and left Hartford. Sansom would be 94 if she were still alive, but nobody at the auction house or among old Hartford colleagues seems to know.< ``She liked flying. She loved flying,'' said Abraham Banks of Newington, an Army Air Corps veteran whose commander was Sansom's second husband. ``She flew as much as she could.''

Sansom was not as much of an activist as Earhart, who traversed the country on lecture tours that promoted commercial air travel, pacificism and women's abilities as pilots.
But Sansom helped popularize air travel in Connecticut. During the half-dozen years she was based at Brainard, Sansom ferried politicians, thrill-seekers and business people around the state, giving many their first airplane rides. She spoke regularly to civic groups as an aviation proponent and set several regional flight records.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1902, Mary Louise Moore arrived in Hartford from New York in 1929 with her first husband, Milton H. Moore. He learned how to fly in the skies over Hartford and taught his wife while he ran a flight school at Brainard. The Moores were the first husband-wife team to qualify as pilots in the state.

Then, in May 1930, the motor on Milton Moore's single-engine plane failed while he was giving a visitor from Washington a lesson. While his wife watched, Moore and the visitor crashed nose-first into a road outside the airport.

The student was killed instantly.

Moore unclasped his safety harness and tried to escape, but the plane burst into flames. He died of burns that night at Hartford Hospital.

Mary Louise Moore took over the business at Brainard, and five months later became the first woman in New England to be awarded a commercial pilot's license. It allowed her to carry paying passengers.
She hired Frederick P. Sansom, another pilot, to help her with the business. Sansom, coincidentally, was the rescuer who had pulled Milton Moore from the charred wreckage of his plane.

The two were married in the summer of 1931 and kept working together at Brainard. She developed a friendly rivalry with another woman at the field, Edith Descomb, who, with her husband, ran a similar service from another hangar.

Descomb was more flamboyant -- and more successful. She would cajole passersby with a megaphone and, once she had made a sale, jump in her plane and take off. By 1933 she claimed to have sold tickets for 53,000 rides.

Sansom kept at it.She reported to her friends at the Ninety-Nines -- a female pilots' group founded by Earhart -- that she was on hand every day at Brainard to fly when the weather was good.
``Male passengers show no concern that a woman is at controls,'' she joked. ``Some even appear delighted . . . after the trip is over and our feet once again [are] on terra firma. Of course, it could be that they had not expected to get down intact.''

Sansom developed an interest in racing and won several prizes. She placed fourth, for example, in a 1933 women's invitational run by the Ninety-Nines. Her prize was $50 and a silver-fox fur piece.
The photos to be auctioned Wednesday include one of Sansom at the height of her racing career. She is standing confidently in front of her plane, smiling warmly and clutching the huge trophy that marked her first-place finish in the 1933 Meridien Air Races. Sansom is wearing her best flying outfit -- jodphurs, a white silk shirt, dark tie and leather skullcap with goggles pulled up on her forehead.
Sansom also tried stunt flying, performing at different New England airfields nearly every Sunday in the summer of 1932.

During a show in June 1933, for example, Sansom broke a New England record for flying loops. She managed 397 in four grueling hours over Agawam, Mass., before nearly running out of fuel. Friends offered Sansom smelling salts when she landed, newspapers reported, but she waved them aside. All she wanted was a cup of coffee and a rubdown.
By the late '30s, Sansom's interest in flying seemed to have waned.
There is no obvious explanation. Sansom's last race was in the mid '30s, and her log books end in 1942.

James W. Waechter, a spokesman for the auction house, has been sifting unsuccessfully through newspaper and aviation archives for clues. He would not provide information about the two people who put up Sansom's memorabilia for auction, but he said they have no additional information about her.
Two major events in Sansom's life may have set her on a new course.
First, a raging Connecticut River washed away her hangar at Brainard during the Great Flood of 1936.
Second, she and Fred were divorced.
Fred Sansom told friends he was tired of working at Brainard while Mary flew off to air shows on weekends. He also wanted children, and his wife did not, said Mike Sansom of Cape Coral, Fla., Fred's son by a second wife.

Mike Sansom said the family is well aware of Mary Sansom's fame. He even has a collection of newspaper stories about her. But they have no idea what she did or where she went after the divorce.
Hartford area pilots who flew from Brainard in the '30s remember Mary Sansom, but did not know her well enough to keep tabs on her.
Pilot Mary Goodrich Jenson of Wethersfield -- now in her late 80s -- lost touch with Sansom decades ago, but believes she remarried, settled in California for a while and developed a love of fine art. She never did have children.

Waechter suspects Sansom died a while ago, since her trophies and scrapbooks are not being auctioned by her estate. Bob North, a volunteer at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks who started flying in the mid-1930s, did not know Sansom. But he suggested that other interests in her life may have lessened her passion for flying.
Still, that is hard to understand. In those days, aviation was not only fun, it was glamorous.
``If you walked into a bar or something like that, you'd see people looking at you,'' North recalled. ``He's a pilot,'' he recalled them whispering.
``You'd get questions, `What's it like. How come you got interested in it,' '' he said.
``It's a very fascinating hobby and it sticks with you,'' North said.
But did it stick with Mary Louise Sansom?
Her trophies, old photos and pilot's license are intriguing. But they are silent.

 It's a great article that raises a question that was maybe never answered. I will have to search out some of the Connecticut museums to see if there is more on the history of Interstate Airways and Mary Louise Sansom. 

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