Betty Skelton Frankman Erde (born June 28, 1926) is a land speed record car driver and acrobatic airplane pilot who set 17 aviation and automobile records. She was known as “the First Lady of Firsts”, and helped create opportunities for women in aviation, auto racing, astronautics and advertising.
High-flying, fast-driving Betty Skelton was born in Pensacola, FL., in 1926. At age 12, she soloed in an airplane. By 1950, Ms. Skelton and her open-cockpit biplane, Little Stinker, were famous worldwide. From 1948 to 1950 she won three international aerobatics competitions for women.
One of Betty’s specialties was a maneuver known as “the inverted ribbon cut,” in which she flew her plane upside down, 10 feet above the ground, and sliced through a ribbon stretched between two poles.
In 1949 and 1951 she set the world light-plane altitude record. In a car, she set the women’s land-speed record three times at Daytona Beach, FL., the last time being 1956 when she hit 145.044 mph. in a Corvette (the men’s record was only 3 m.p.h. faster). She holds more combined aviation and automotive records than anyone else, man or woman, in history.