Friday, May 15, 2015

An Aviation Pioneer. His Cat. His Ladies...

John B. Moisant and Mademoiselle Fifi
FRaVMotC Virgil Xenophon left a comment on Tuna's Tuesday Trivia which peaked my interest:
Wanna know why New Orleans Intl Airport (Louis Armstrong Intl) has the identifier "MSY?" It stands for Moisant Stock Yards! a) stock yards used to exist out there when it was all farm-land and runway was grass besides them and b) It was subsequently named for a American named John Moisant who was killed when his plane crashed in an attempt to fly from downtown N.O. out to the stockyards. Google the guy on Wiki--was a REAL character. LOTS of flying firsts, made millions in Sugar Plantations in El Salvador where he led two failed revolutions-goes on and on. Was flt trained in France--You've GOT to read his Wiki entry!!!
So I did go read about this fascinating fellow over at Wikipedia and at the  Smithsonian's Air & Space website.
Definitely an interesting guy but what really got my attention was the fact that he was a cat guy.
Those of you unfamiliar with the feline species may not know that getting a cat to sit on your shoulders is not easy. Well, you don't actually get the cat to do it, the cat has to want to do it. In other words, it has to be the cat's idea.
All that aside, Mademoiselle Fifi wasn't just a cat who obviously cared for her human, she would go flying with him! You can read about that here.
I'm tempted make a "Grumman Cat" remark at this point, but I won't. But I will...
An F-14D Tomcat makes a near-supersonic low-level fly-by above the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).
(U.S. Navy Photo)
Whoa! Where did that come from?

All kidding aside, Mr. Moisant's sister was also famous in aviation.
Matilde Moisant
Miss Moisant was the second woman in the United States to receive her pilot's certificate, at her brother Alfred's flight school. This was only a few weeks after her friend Harriet Quimby became the first woman in the U.S. to receive a pilot's certificate.
Matilde Moisant (left) and Harriet Quimby
Early Aviation Pioneers
Sadly Miss Quimby was probably the first female pilot to be killed in a flying accident.
Harriet Quimby in her Blériot XI monoplane
While I couldn't find a reference to prove that she was the first female pilot to die in an aircraft incident, it stands to reason that she must have been. Even if she wasn't, it's sad to read of her fate.
On July 1, 1912, she flew in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts. Ironically, although she had obtained her ACA certificate to be allowed to participate in ACA events, the Boston meet was an unsanctioned contest. Quimby flew out to Boston Light in Boston Harbor at about 3000 feet, then returned and,  circled the airfield. William Willard, the organizer of the event and father of the aviator Charles Willard, was a passenger in her brand-new two-seat Bleriot monoplane. At an altitude of 1,500 feet the aircraft unexpectedly pitched forward for reasons still unknown. Both Willard and Quimby were ejected from their seats and fell to their deaths, while the plane "glided down and lodged itself in the mud". Wikipedia
Miss Moisant gave up flying the year after she started after crashing her aircraft. Apparently the same day the Titanic sank.
Flying can be dangerous. In those days it was nearly always dangerous. No seatbelts? No parachutes?
Still and all, my readers always seem to clue me in to interesting stories.
Thanks Virgil!


  1. I recognize the smile on Ms Quimby's face in the last picture. I had a similar one on mine anytime I was at the controls.

    I never had a cat want to sit on my shoulder, but I did have one that would lay down on the top of my head. Took some getting used to, but he would just climb up on the back of my chair and scootch his way onto my head, then lay there and purr.

    1. I've had that smile one time. SNJ6 ride. Fun squared.

      Cats are an interesting species, one I have a long association with. They're all different, yet with a lot of similarities between them.

  2. Supurb!

    Look at those pretty ladies with sense enough to keep their tats and industrials covered.

    Think I'll go start a revolution.


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