In 1911, just eight years after the airplane was invented, Harriet Quimby became the first U.S. licensed female pilot. She was so accomplished that she earned as much as $1,500 for performing in air shows. In addition to being skillful, Quimby, 36, was so cool and collected that even when her engine quit during a flight to Mexico, she was able to glide safely to a landing [source: Tyson].
In the spring of 1912, she came up with an idea for a spectacular feat. She would be the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Louis Bleriot had been the first man to do this three years earlier [source: Daniels, Hyslop and Brinkley].
As she had planned, Quimby took off from Dover, England, on the morning of April 16, 1912, and despite the fog, completed the flight and touched down on a French beach just 59 minutes later [source: Daniels, Hyslop and Brinkley, page 282]. Unfortunately, nobody paid much attention, because of the sinking of the Titanic the day before [source: History.com]. Sadly, in July of the same year, Quimby was killed in a plane crash while flying from Boston to New York [source: Tyson].