Author: Rebecca Maksel

Senior Associate Editor at Air & Space magazine

Viola Gentry

You could say Viola Gentry was a rebellious teen. In 1910, when she was just 16 years old, she had already run away to join the circus, gotten married, and divorced. Her parents sent her to live with her aunt and uncle in Jacksonville, Florida, in hopes it would rein her in. It was there, during a chaperoned trip to an ostrich farm, that Gentry found her calling. Amid all the ostrich-related activities and souvenirs, she met pilot George A. Gray, who was offering rides in his airplane. Gentry counted her pennies and climbed in. For the next eight years,…

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