In 1927 , a 21-year-old ignored the fact that she was a girl and threw herself into helping birth American aviation, a new industry that even men feared. Against all odds — lack of money; a broken family; a father who was a compulsive gambler; the looming depression — she did not consider herself a victim of circumstances. She brushed aside mainstream thought, bobbed her hair, donned men’s clothes and took to the skies. The public admiringly looked up as Bobbi Trout broke one aviation record after another. She reached for the American Dream at a time when so many Americans doubted it would ever exist again.
Bobbi Trout A Story 100 Years in the Making
ABOVE: Bobbi Trout climbs out of her plane after setting a second women’s endurance flight record and becoming the first woman to take off and land at night. LEFT: The newspa- per article shows Bobbi’s age as 18, but she was 22 years old. In 1929, she spelled her first name “Bobbie,” but changed the spelling twice in her life before settling on “Bobbi.”
1929 Record Flights
January 2, 1929 - Bobbi sets her first record flight of 12 hours and 11 minutes in the air.
August 1929 - Bobbi was one of 20 women pilots who competed in the First Women’s Air Derby, dubbed The Powder Puff Derby by Will Rogers.
June 16, 1929 - Bobbi sets an altitude record of 15,200 feet for a light plane.
ABOVE: Walt Disney asked Bobbi to adver- tise his “new” Mickey Mouse in 1929. Disney hoped to capitalize on Bobbi’s fame, and so he did. LEFT: Bobbi made good money flying advertising missions for oil companies during the depression, notably Shell and Richfield. Her log books show impeccable record keep- ing as she calculated gas and oil usage en route to her destinations.
and more 1933
January 30, 1931 - Bobbi receives the Medal- lion from the Fédération Aéronautique Interna- tional, the highest individual honor in aviation at the time.
July 7, 1933 - Bobbi receives the Aviation Gold Cross from the King of Romania.
May 30-31, 1930 - Bobbi wins the pylon race at the opening of United Airport in Burbank, CA. Photo taken with “Mrs. Hamilton - Propeller Co.”
The Bigger Picture
Bobbi Trout’s life story is more than an interesting list of extraordinary aviation accomplishments. Her days on earth read like a movie. She was daring, but cautious; wise, but humble. Though she was called “friend” by famous flyers Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, Louise Thaden, Charles and Anne Lindbergh, Will Rogers, and non-pilots the likes of Walt Disney, Greta Garbo, Red Skelton and his wife, she was a friend to all she met. She loved people and was continually fascinated by the lives and accomplishments of others and was always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need.
RIGHT: Amelia sent Bobbi a newspaper clipping that showed a photo of two “aviatrixes” in a refueling flight, but had the wrong caption. Amelia thought it was funny that the text refer- ence was about the President of Portugal and made a joke about Bobbi refueling him. BELOW: A newspaper headline and article about the 1929 First Womens Air Derby in which Amelia and Bobbi were contestants.
ABOVE: Pilot friends Amelia Earhart, German-born pilot Thea Rasche and Bobbi Trout.
After her daring escapades of flight had been inked in the logbooks, Bobbi continued down her path of unending curiosity, finding success in many fields. She didn’t fade away in the glory of her past like so many over achiev- ers do as they move further away from youth and fame. Every day she thought up new inventions and business ideas, and as importantly, she enjoyed having plain, old fun. Bobbi invented and manufactured side door mirrors for cars before they became a standard. During WWII, while visiting a Boeing manufacturing plant, she noticed that rivets were falling to the floor and being swept out the door and into the garbage, so she invented a rivet sorting machine, which saved manufacturers precious war-time rivets -- and money. Late in life she obtained a real estate license and was very good at making financial investments. She loved to ride her white Arabian horse, scuba dive, fish and pan for gold.
Bobbi’s life wasn’t always about blue skies. Many of her pilot friends were killed in airplane crashes. She watched her father drink himself to death. Her mother and her mother’s long-time friend and caretaker died just hours apart. She dealt with bouts of cancer and had a double mastectomy in mid-life. Through it all, she lived to the age of 97, and in her last breath, she was still singing. Literally. She was singing to a bird that came to her window. She loved birds, because she was one. In our heart of hearts, we all want to have the courage to be just like Bobbi Trout -- determined to plot a joyful, meaningful life journey, no matter what circumstances we face -- to the very end.
BACKGROUND PHOTO: The Bobbi Trout support team prepares for her endurance flight in 1929. Bobbi is standing to the left wearing a flight cap and jacket. The photo was tak- en and signed by R.O. Bone, who provided the airplanes for attempts at record break- ing. LEFT: A page from a 1929 logbook shows Bobbi’s entries during the First Women’s Air Derby.
In 1987 , a young woman from a small, rural town in Illinois dreamed of flying. She was given a news- paper clipping about a celebration that was to be held in honor of Amelia Earhart’s 90th birthday in Amelia’s hometown of Atchison, KS. A last-minute, 455-mile road trip -- and Bobbi Trout -- would change life forever.
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