Phoebe Omlie and the 1928 & 1929 Air Tours

Mrs. Phoebe F. Omlie was one of the first women to fly in the National Air Tours of the ’20’s. In 1928 she and Jack Atkinson both flew Velie powered Monocoupes in the great western tour of that year. Both finished the tour, and their feat did much to make the Monocoupe the most popular plane of the day. In 1929 she won the first Women’s National Air Derby from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland. Ohio. There, at the Air Races, she also won the women’s 50 mile race, flying with an average speed of 112.38 miles per hour.

phoebe-omlie-ford-air-tour-1The Fourth National Air Tour was held in 1928, and what a Tour! Starting in Detroit, the ‘planes flew south, then west to the coast, north to Tacoma, and back east to the start­ ing point. A total distance of 6,300 miles, and a route that covered every conceivable type of terrain and weather. A Tour Indeed!

It was in this Tour that the first woman en­ trant appeared, and Frank Bogart, in the August 1928 issue of Aero Digest, had this comment to make, “Now when you talk of going it alone in this tour you have to sweep your sombrero to the ground with a low bow to Mrs. Phoebe Fairgrove Omlie of Memphis, Tenn., the first woman ever to pilot a ship in the Ford tour, the only woman pilot in the present event, and the first woman to fly alone across the great American desert.”

phoebe-omlie-ford-air-tour-2Mr. Bogart goes on to say, “The fact that she tipped over on her first landing in high alti­ tude, at Marfa, Texas, without the least dam­ age to herself, however, is as nothing against the fact that she stepped right into the other Monocoupe in the fleet and went her way. Jack Atkinson of Gary, Ind.. the pilot of this ship, remained behind to repair Mrs. Omlie’s craft. He rejoined at Frisco. Good sports­ manship on Jack’s part as well as the lady’s. These little craft, smallest of any in the fleet, are proving up splendidly, as well as doing much to dispel the veiled mistrust of the fliver plane in the past crowded months.”

phoebe-omlie-ford-air-tour-3Well, Mrs. Omlie went on to complete the Tour, as did Jack Atkinson, in his Mono­ coupe. Originating in 1926, this was the first time that National attention had been called to this fine airplane, but it was only the start – for most of the races entered, in the next few’ years, were to be won by this ‘years ahead design.

Another winner from this era was Miss Flo Klingensmith, who had many hours behind the controls of various Monocoupes, and who flew many of them to victory in air races.

And last, but not least, are the two dolls before a very early Anzani powered ‘Coupe’. Yes, I said Anzani powered, and if you want to know more about either the plane or the dolls, then just ask John Livingston, for it was Johnny who, with his little Mono­ coupe, enticed these girls to the field!