Some of this information comes from the biographical
file for pilot Heath, CH-265000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the
National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.
Your copy of the "Davis-Monthan Airfield Register" with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references
to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.
One side of Lady Heath's personality is found at this link,
which summarizes her interactions with Will Rogers.
A good bridge to other web sources, as well as a nice photograph
of Lady Mary, is available at this link.
This link describes
and quotes from a 2004 biography written about Lady Mary
Heath (nee: Sophie Eliott Lynn). There are two film
clips of Lady Mary on this page, too.
This link describes Lady Mary's flying experiences in South Africa. The airplane pictured in this article, G-EBUG. was eventually purchased by Amelia Earhart.
FRESNO BEE, August 29, 1929. This issue presents an unusual number (ten) of aviation-related articles, all on the front page. Note, too, the anecdote by Will Rogers regarding how to locate an airfield.
LADY MARY HEATH
Lady Mary Heath visited the Davis-Monthan Airfield on May
30th 1929. She was flying an Avian, registry 603E. She did
not indicate an origin or a destination (see notation in right
column), but she was westbound (page link).
The Newark Star-Eagle of April 27, 1929 (“Lady Heath
Starts Country Air Tour”) reports her dawn departure
from the Pine Brook Airport for a tour of the U.S. piloting,
“a new Whittlesworth Avian powered with a Cirrus four-in-line
air cooled engine.” Her first stop was planned for Dayton,
OH, with “several short hops” to the west coast.
Image, left, from New York Sun, August 29, 1929.
Her airplane was being delivered to R.W. Simpson, Clover
Field, Los Angeles, a west coast dealer. It carried the latest
features, including the Handley-Paige slotted wing to prevent
spins. She was flying under contract to sell American Cirrus
engines, and to find out how the engine would behave through
use of any grade of fuel or oil. Her contract would be over
when she returned east.
Stepping back, Lady Heath had recently come to the U.S. An article in Popular Aviation, March, 1929, announced her arrival and provided a short biography. You may download the article at the link (PDF 1.2Mb). The article appeared in a special column of Popular Aviation magazine dedicated to "Women's Activities." The author was Louise Thaden. Heath would take over the authorship of this column, and her reportage would appear in the magazine for some months. See the example, below, from December, 1929.
Also appearing in the same issue of Popular Aviation (PA) magazine was the full-page advertisement, below, for the General Airplanes Corporation, Buffalo, NY. Because of her reputation, the Heath testimonial letter of endorsement placed value on this ad.
Advertisement, General Airplanes Corp., Popular Aviation, March, 1929 (Source: PA)
Fresno Bee, August 29, 1929
Along the way on her trip, on May 2, 1929, The Star-Eagle reported (“Lady Heath In Crash”) a minor accident
upon making a forced landing at Effingham, IL. The plane was
damaged and repairs were made at Terre Haute, IN. She then
continued her flight westward.
A brief mention of her progress was made in the Lubbock Sunday Avalanche (TX) of May 26, 1929. In an article that was really about the then ongoing endurance flight of Reg Robbins and James Kelly, it stated that she paused briefly to watch the fliers and send her good wishes, but then moved on, "Lady Mary Heath of England famous cross country flier, also sent greetings but was forced to fly on to keep up with her schedule on a trip to the Pacific Coast."
Her cross-country voyage was reported in this article from the British journal Flight of July 4, 1929 (p. 551), just about a month after she visited Tucson. There is a photograph in this article of Lady Heath standing next to large saguaro cactuses near Tucson. The article also mentions her meeting with Marvel Crosson, female flyer (signed the Clover Field Register) killed in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby. Her brother, Joe Crosson, is a Register pilot.
Lady Heath enjoyed a meteoric career in aviation. Setting
records, transport flying and accidents, as well as politics
and three marriages, punctuated her life between 1928 and
1932. She first made headlines by flying solo from Capetown
to London between February 12 and May 28, 1928. See the article, right, near the bottom ("Flew Across Africa").
28, 1928 The New York Times reported an enroute incident during
that record-setting flight (“Lady Heath Faints While
Piloting Plane”). She made a forced landing while flying
from Pretoria to Bulawayo on her way to Cairo. She realized
she was suffering “sunstroke” and, “…altered
her course toward the grasslands, shut off the engine and
remembered no more until she awoke in a native hut with the
occupants giving her a drink.” Her plane had flown to
an uneventful landing in the grass while she was unconscious!
On July 11, 1928 the New York Tribune (“Lady Heath
Sets Light Seaplane Altitude Mark”) reported her climb
to 13,000 feet over the Rochester Airdrome, London in an all-metal
Mussel light seaplane with a Cirrus engine. She was carrying
fellow pilot Kathleen O’Brien. They ascended at 12:25
PM and descended at 2:14 PM. The flight was held under the
auspices of the International Aeronautical Federation. On July 27, 1928 she applied her piloting skills in a commercial
job with Royal Dutch Airlines (New York Evening News: “Lady
Heath Takes Job As Dutch Air Pilot”).
Thirteen-months later she crashed her airplane through a roof at Cleveland, OH (Fresno Bee link, left sidebar). At right, the article from the Fresno Bee of August 29, 1929 that describes that crash. She survived the accident caused, in part, by the fact that she had shut her engine off while practicing for a dead-stick landing contest at the 1929 National Air Races in Cleveland. Most conservative, modern pilots would not turn off a perfectly good-running engine. And they probably would not expose passengers to risk while doing this kind of practice.
Below, a brief news film of an interview with Lady Mary wherein she describes the aftermath of her accident. The film is ca. 1931.
Lady Heath's accident has a relationship with the information about Martin Factory Field in northeast Cleveland. Please direct your browser to the link and scroll to the aerial photograph of the old Martin Field that is marked with red labels. It was at Martin that she crashed and was injured.
A site visitor states about the photograph of Martin Field and relates it to her accident as follows, "The long factory along [the] street, opposite side of the rail spur from the airmail hanger [this hangar and the factory are visible in the annotated photograph at the link] is ... still there. The smoke stack near that factory still stands and is, I am quite sure, the smokestack that the famous Irish aviatrix Lady Heath snagged on landing a company Great Lakes 2T1 just before the 1929 National Air Races. She crashed through the roof of the factory and came very close to death in the following few weeks."
About this same time, Heath authored a column, below, that appeared in Aeronautics magazine for December, 1929. The article mentions the completion of the 1929 National Air Races (the first NAR in which women were allowed to compete). She also cites several sister Register pilots, Ruth Elder, Louise Thaden, Amelia Earhart, Elinor Smith and Laura Ingalls.
One interesting thing she lists in her column is the count of female pilots in the U.S., sixty, at the time of her writing. I believe there were more, because the Ninety-Nines were formed during the winter of 1929-30 and the "99" notion was derived from the number of certificated female pilots who formed the core of charter members.
She also cites seven women employed in the aviation industry at the time. She was enthusiastic about the roles women could play in aviation, besides being pilots. She pointed out roles in sales, administration and equipment testing. All these have come to pass, which is testimony to her prescience.
Please direct your browser to some of the links in the left sidebar to review additional information about Lady Mary Heath. She was a hoot in any era. Below, a portrait of Lady Mary Heath from Aeronautics magazine, July, 1929.
Lady Mary Heath, Aeronautics Magazine, July, 1929 (Source: Web)
Ironically, Lady Heath suffered a fall down the stairs of a double-decker
bus in London. She passed away from her injuries in 1939.
Her fortunes dwindling,
contemporary newspapers reported that nobody knew her when she was taken to the hospital.
The May 31, 1929 morning edition summarized Lady Heath's visit
to Tucson the previous day. She was treated royally, greeted by city and airport
officials. The article actually documents her signing of the register!
She, "...taxied to near the field hangar, clad in a Leopard
skin jacket and helmet climbed out to remain in Tucson for a day
and night. She arrived from El Paso at 8:30 o'clock after a flight
of three hours. At the register, Lady Heath signed her name, neither
designating from whence she came nor her destination."
Click on the link to the Register page she signed (center column, top) to see, indeed, she entered none of this information, including dates.
looking for information and photographs of Lady Heath and her airplane to include on this page.
If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to