Indiana’s impressive aeronautical history would not be complete without mention of a flying first that also happens to rank within women’s history.
22 years before Amelia Earhart’s first solo flight across the Atlantic, Blanche Stuart Scott (1889-1970) became the nation’s first woman to make a public solo flight, albeit of a considerably shorter distance. Although records of the precise date are sketchy, Scott made history in October 1910 at Driving Park, Fort Wayne, performing as part of the Curtiss Exhibition Team.
Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss’ only female student had actually gotten airborne on her own a month earlier, when the block of wood placed behind the throttle to prevent take-off had been dislodged while taxiing down the runway in Hammondsport, New York, allowing Scott briefly to cruise at 40 feet.
Before taking to the skies, the Rochester, New York native was renowned as the first woman to drive an automobile from coast to coast. The trip from New York to San Francisco, in 1910, took more than two months at a time when there were only 218 miles of paved road outside of the nation’s cities.
The lady-driver’s stunt convinced Curtiss to train Scott for his airshow. The site of Scott’s historic flight was in Fort Wayne’s Forest Park area. Land that originally belonged to a farm was leased to a trotting association and enjoyed new life when an oval racetrack was installed and public transportation linked to what became known as Driving Park.
In addition to the Curtiss stunt flyers, the park also hosted carnivals, bicycle parades and military reviews before being purchased for residential development in 1913.