Katherine Stinson (14 February 1891, in Fort Payne, Alabama– July 8, 1977, in Santa Fe, New Mexico) was an early female flier. She was the fourth woman in the United States to obtain a pilot’s certificate, which she earned on 24 July 1912, at the age of 21 while residing in Pine Bluff, AR. Initially, she planned to get her certificate and use money she earned from exhibition flying to pay for hermusic lessons. However, she found she liked flying so much that she gave up her piano career and decided to become an aviatrix. In January 1911, Stinson went to St. Louis to take flight lessons fromTony Jannus who only allowed her to fly as a passenger. She then took her flying lessons from the well-known aviator Max Lillie, a pilot for the Wright Brothers, who initially refused to teach her because she was female. But she persuaded him to give her a trial lesson and was so good that she flew alone after only four hours of instruction. A year after receiving her certificate, she began exhibition flying. On the exhibition circuit, she was known as the «Flying Schoolgirl.» Katherine Stinson tried to tell newspaper reporters she was actually 21, not 16. Although, they refused to believe her.
After she received her certificate, Stinson and her family moved to San Antonio, Texas, an area with an ideal climate for flying. There, she and her sister Marjorie began giving flying instruction at her family’s aviation school in Texas. On July 18, 1915, Stinson became the first woman to perform a loop, at Cicero Field in Chicago, Illinois, and went on to perform this feat some 500 times without a single accident. She also was one of the first women authorized to carry airmail for the United States. During World War I, Stinson flew a Curtiss JN-4D «Jenny» and a Curtiss Stinson-Special (a single seat version of the JN aircraft built to her specifications) for fundraising tours for the American Red Cross. During exhibition flights in Canada, Stinson set a Canadian distance and endurance record, and made the second air mail flight in Canada between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.
On December 11th 1917 Katherine Stinson flew 606 miles from San Diego to San Francisco, setting a new American non-stop distance record.
Of note is the fact that all of her stunt flying was done in aircraft using the Wright control system which uses two side-mounted levers for pitch and roll, with top mounted controls for throttle and yaw.
The Stinson School closed in 1917, and Katherine became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Europe. There, she contracted influenza, which turned into tuberculosis in 1920, causing her retirement from aviation. In 1928, she married airman Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr., son of the former territorial governor of New Mexico. Although she could no longer fly, she worked as an architect for many years inSanta Fe, New Mexico. She died in 1977 at the age of 86.