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Issue Date: September 2014 Issue


Erick Trickey

Blanche Wilcox was an actress when she met pilot Dewey Noyes at a dinner honoring Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight. After they married, he taught her to fly. In April 1929, at Cleveland’s airport, Blanche Wilcox Noyes became the first woman in Ohio to earn a pilot’s license. Just four months later, she entered the National Air Races’ women’s air derby, an eight-day race from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland. She flew a Whirlwind Travelair biplane, dubbed Miss Cleveland and sponsored by the Halle Bros. Co. department store. ¶ Over Texas, Noyes saw smoke surge from the cockpit. Her baggage was on fire. She landed quickly and tore the burning luggage from the plane, singeing her hand. “Fire in ship. Forced landing in mesquite,” she wrote in a telegram to Cleveland. Yet she finished the race, coming in fourth, just behind Amelia Earhart. ¶ Dewey Noyes died in December 1935 when his plane crashed during a snowstorm. His wife kept flying. After winning the 1936 Bendix Trophy Race as co-pilot to Louise Thaden — a first for women — Noyes led the federal government’s air-marking effort, which persuaded thousands of towns to paint their names and directions to airports on rooftops. ¶ Noyes died in 1981 at age 81. “I’m pretty near making my office in the air,” she once said. “I don’t think I would want to live if I couldn’t fly.”

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