11 Jul 2020

A pioneering woman: 90 years ago, Ruth Alexander reached an altitude of 6583m

On 11 July 1930, American aviatrix Ruth Alexander flew a Nicholas-Beazley NB-3 equipped with a Warner "Scarab" Jr. 90 H.P. motor and established a female Altitude world record (6583m) over San Diego, California (USA).

Thanks to her exceptional performance, Alexander, then 25 years old, added her name to the list of FAI women’s world-record breakers for the second time. Her first record was in 1929.


Following FAI’s decision to recognise women’s records and the subsequent ratification of the first record of this kind in 1929 by Maryse Bastié, more and more women made record attempts. In the 1930s, courageous and determined pilots such as Ruth Alexander, Lena Berstein, Hélène Boucher (the first woman to supersede a record set by a man), Jacqueline Cochran and Jean Batten moved the women’s cause forward with their achievements. In 1938, for example, no less than 31 women’s records were approved by FAI, not counting distance records.

In 1937, Jean Batten was the first woman to received FAI’s highest award, the FAI Gold Air Medal, as the first woman to cross the South Atlantic in 1935, fly from England to Australia and New Zealand.

Alexander also achieved her share of fame not only for her records, but also for being the second American glider pilot licence-holder and the first female gliding instructor in the USA. Sadly, she didn’t get the chance to further her aviation exploits, as she died after crashing her airplane on 18 September 1930. Her death made the news around the world.