Capsule Biographies

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While studying in France at the turn of the century, Mineola resident Bessica Medlar Raiche became interested in aviation—so much so that when she and her husband returned to the United States, they built a silk-and-bamboo biplane. The couple transported the finished aircraft to the Hempstead Plains, and on Sept 26, 1910, Raiche climbed aboard and took off, landing in the history books as the first American woman to make a solo flight—though the flight lasted only a few minutes and ended in a crash.

One local paper described the aftermath this way: "She scrambled to her feet and before any one of the mechanicians and others who had witnessed the fall of the biplane could reach her, she had shut off the engine and stopped the propeller. She calmly said she was not injured to those who ran to her aid, and then she directed the men to drag the wrecked plane back to the shed."

In the next few weeks, Raiche made several more flights; for her efforts, the Aeronautical Society later awarded her a gold-and-diamond medal inscribed "First Woman Aviator of America." (She might have been more accurately described as the first woman to fly intentionally. Rochester native Blanche Stuart Scott had soloed two weeks before Raiche, but the society refused to give her credit because her flight was accidental: She had been practicing her taxiing along the ground when a gust of wind lifted her plane 40 feet into the air.) Raiche and her husband later built and sold two more planes, but Bessie soon gave up flying and became a physician.



John Rankin



Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 2004.

  -- Eddie Rickenbacker; Hans Christian Adamson (Macmillan 1946)
  -- Fighting the Flying Circus; Capt Edward V Rickenbacker (Stokes 1919, Doubleday 1965, Avon 1967, Donnelly & Sons 1997, Lakeside 1997)
  -- God Still Answers Prayer; Eddie Rickenbacker & Lind Swarthout (Zondervan 1944)
  -- Rickenbacker; autobiography (Prentice-Hall 1967)
  -- Rickenbacker's Luck: An American Life; Finis Farr (Houghton Mifflin 1979)
  -- Seven Came Through; Edward V Rickenbacker (Doubleday Doran 1943)


Born 1879. Died April 3, 1912 (>March 17, 1912).

Calbraith Perry Rodgers. SEE ALSO Flight of the Vin Fiz.

  -- Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz: The First Transcontinental Flight; Eileen F Lebow (Smithsonian 1989)

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 1964.


Born at Parsons KS, January 3, 1898. Died 19--

Tubal Claude Ryan, born in Kansas, but moved about 1912 to California where his family bought an orange grove. In 1917 he enrolled in the American School of Aviation at Venice CA, and after making one solo flight there, applied for an Army Air Service under-age waiver, was accepted and told to report at the recruiting station on Nov 11, 1918. Unfortunately for him, that was the day the Armistice was signed.

Disheartened, he went to Oregon state College to study engineering for most of a year, reapplied with the Army, and was accepted into March Field's cadet class of 1919, where he graduated with a pursuit pilot rating. Rather than advanced training, Ryan opted for forestry patrol duty and remained in this service in the West until his enlistment ended in 1922, after which he went to San Diego and barnstormed rides to pay for his surplus JN-4 Jenny. A second JN-4 constituted the first "Ryan Flying Co" venture, and by 1923 he had managed to add six surplus Standards, which he rebuilt with five-passengers cabins and repowered with fresh new-surplus 150hp Hisso motors with financial backing from his new partner, San Diego businessman B F Mahoney. This was the start of Ryan Airlines, and it made its first of scheduled flight between San Diego and Los Angeles -- round-trip fare $29.50, one-way $17.50. A new Douglas Cloudster was added in 1925, also modified with a cabin as the first dedicated passenger plane in America.

Learning of the Postal Department's dissatisfaction with their aging De Havilland DH-4s, he and his crew built the first true Ryan product, the M-1 (honoring partner Mahoney), to offer to air mail contractors. The ship could carry twice the load of the DH-4 at a much greater speed with less horsepower, so not surprisingly the new factory was soon turning out M-1s and B-1 Broughams as fast as they could.

Not satisfied with flying a desk, Ryan sold his manufacturing rights to Mahoney at the end of 1926, agreeing to remain as company manager for four months. In January 1927, a letter arrived from an air-mail pilot named Lindbergh, asking if they could build a plane capable of flying across the Atlantic. They could, and did build one based on the tried-and-true B-1 design, and Lindy's Paris flight made the name of Ryan almost a household word overnight. However, that April Ryan left his company to get into aircraft engines, contracting with Germany's Siemens-Halske for US manufacturing and sales right as the Ryan-Siemens, a prosperous venture.

His Ryan Aeronautical Compny was incorporated and moved to Lindbergh Field, where it expanded with his popular flying school. There he and Millard Boyd designed the S-T series of attractive trainers that became a volume production in the mid-'30s.

  -- Ryan, The Aviator; William Wagner (McGraw-Hill 1971)

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 1974.