Elinor Smith

  • - Rob Brown
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    - Diana Austin
  • "RIP Elinor, I know it didn't take long to get those "angel..."
    - C. Durning
  • "I'm a private pilot. I've never met you, but you're..."
    - Rob Abbott
  • "What a truly great woman she was, an inspiration for anyone..."
    - Robert Zirbel

Elinor Smith (AP Photo)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Elinor Smith, who was considered one of the youngest and most daring pilots in the 1920s when she set a number of flying records, has died. She was 98.

Smith died Friday at a nursing home in Palo Alto, said her son, Patrick Sullivan of Santa Cruz.

She became a licensed pilot just after her 16th birthday, Sullivan said. At age 17, she became an instant celebrity when she flew under all four of New York's East River suspension bridges.

Sullivan said his mother set the women's solo flying endurance record in 1929 during a 13 1/2 hour flight. She set an even longer mark just three months later when she flew solo for 26 1/2 hours.

Smith also set a women's altitude record by flying at a height of 32,576 feet in 1931.

"She's not a household word, but she probably should be because she did some really significant flying," Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, told the Washington Post.

Smith's photo is on display in the museum's Golden Age of Flight gallery.

Smith took a long break from her flying career after marrying New York State Assemblyman Patrick Sullivan in 1933. She resumed flying after he died in 1956.

In April 2001, at the age of 89, Smith piloted her last flight when she flew an experimental C33 Raytheon AGATE, Beech Bonanza out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

Smith is survived by four children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press
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