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Betty Skelton
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Aviator
    (June 28, 1926-August 31, 2011)
    Born in Pensacola, Florida
    Stunt pilot and test driver
    Won three US Feminine Aerobatic Championships (1948-50)
    First woman to perform an inverted ribbon cut (flying a plane upside down about 10 feet above the ground to slice a ribbon strung between two poles)
    Set 17 air and land speed records
    Spokesperson for Chevrolet
    Inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame (2005) and Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (2008)
    Known as 'the fastest woman on Earth' and 'first lady of firsts'
    She took her first solo flight at 12 -- four years below the legal minimum age.
    She lied about being 18 to get a job as a clerk with Eastern Airlines.
    She hated when people called her flying aerobatics 'stunts': 'I considered it an art.'
    She appeared in ads for Camel Cigarettes.
    She frequently flew with her pet chihuahua on her lap.
    She was the first female test driver hired by Detroit and the first woman to drive the pace car at the Daytona 500.
    When she drove from New York to Los Angeles in just under 57 hours, she broke the men's transcontinental speed record as well as the women's (1956).
    For an article in 'Look Magazine,' she became the first woman to take NASA's physical and psychological tests.
    She passed all the tests and won the respect of the Mercury Seven astronauts, who nicknamed her '7-1/2.'
    Her plane, 'Little Stinker,' is on display at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum.

Credit: C. Fishel


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