Historical Figures

Neta Snook, aviation pioneer

Mary Neta Snook, known as Neta Snook (1896 – 1991) was a pioneering American aviator; she is notably the first woman to own a business in the field of aviation.

The difficult search for an aviation school

Born on February 14, 1896 in Illinois (United States), Mary Neta Snook, nicknamed Snookie by her friends, took an early interest in mechanics. From the age of four, on her father's lap, she drives his car with him through the streets of his small town. Growing up, she learned mechanics and was educated at the Frances Shimer School, where she graduated in 1912. When her family moved to Iowa, she entered college and took technical drawing classes. and mechanics.

Neta is passionate about aviation; she reads everything she finds on the first airplanes and dreams of learning to fly. She applied to the Curtiss-Wright Aviation School in Virginia, but was denied admission because of her gender. The following year, she entered the Davenport Flying School in Iowa and began to learn to fly, but the school closed following a crash in which the school president was killed. In 1917, Neta was finally accepted into Curtiss-Wright Aviation and completed her training. She buys a derelict Canuck biplane and spends two years repairing it in her parents' yard.

“I will fly as boldly as any man”

In 1920, Neta Snook flies her repaired Canuck and earns her pilot's license. At first, she earned her living by flying passengers, then she obtained a position as an instructor and manager at the new Los Angeles airport, becoming the first woman to manage an aerodrome. In 1921, she met Amelia Earhart who asked her to teach her to fly; she becomes his first instructor as well as a close friend. Subsequently, she will be best known for her relationship with Amelia Earhart. That same year, Neta became the first woman to compete in a men's race, finished fifth, and told the press, "I'm going to fly as smart and bold as any male aviator in the world.">

In 1922, Neta married Bill Southern and, after becoming pregnant, she stopped stealing and sold her business. In 1937, after the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, she began to give conferences on her career and wrote her autobiography I Taught Amelia To Fly . In 1977, she was invited to fly a replica of Charles Lindbergh's plane and flew for the first time in decades. In 1981, she was recognized as the oldest aviator in the United States.

Neta Snook died on March 23, 1991 at the age of 95. She is enshrined in the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame.