RIP Betty Skelton, Badass


You may not have heard of the late aviatix and all around daredevil Betty Skelton, but after reading this article about her life, you might kind of want to be her.

Skelton died of cancer on August 31 at age 85, but it’s her life, not her death, that’s noteworthy. To put it succinctly: she was a complete and utter badass, a pioneer daredevil who drove airplanes and cars in ways many men dared not.

The LA times reports,

Born June 28, 1926, the year before Charles Lindbergh made his historic transatlantic flight, Skelton grew up watching Navy pilots perform stunts in the skies above her Pensacola, Fla., home. While other girls were playing with dolls, she collected model airplanes and talked her parents into paying for flying lessons when she was 10.
At 12 she made her first unofficial solo flight. “I didn’t tell my mother for about a week,” she recalled in a NASA oral history interview in 1999.
She soloed officially at 16, when she earned her pilot’s license.

She was too young to fight in World War II and too female to become a commercial pilot, and thus turned to stunt flying. She purchased a red and white stunt plane she nicknamed “Little Stinker” and eventually donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.

After retiring from flying in 1951, she turned to cars. She set a land speed record when she clocked 145 mph in a souped up Corvette and once set a trancontinental land speed record by driving from New York to Los Angeles in 57 hours.

In 1959, the 5’2″ Skelton appeared in a Look magazine article entitled “Should A Girl Be First in Space?” and trained with the male Mercury 7 astronauts, taking the same physical and psychological tests they took.


Skelton held “more combined aircraft and automotive records than anyone in history,” according to a biography on the [National Air & Space Museum]’s website. A three-time women’s international aerobatics champion, she was the first woman to execute the “inverted ribbon cut,” a breathtaking maneuver in which a pilot flies upside down about 12 feet from the ground to slice a ribbon strung between two poles. She also set two world light plane altitude records, reaching 26,000 feet in 1949 and 29,000 feet in 1951.

She’s the first woman to be inducted in both the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame and the NASCAR International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Betty Skelton was the real life version of a Chuck Norris fact. May she rest in peace, or eternal aerial loop the loops.

Betty Skelton Dies at 85; record-setting aviatrix and auto racer [LAT]

Image via AP

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