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Teenage Female Stunt Flyer: Pearl Carter Scott (1916-2005)

Folks along the old Chisholm Trail in rural 1927 Stephens County rarely saw an airplane in flight. So when a monoplane circled Marlow one morning and landed on blind entrepreneur George Carter’s spread just east of town, a crowd gathered to investigate. The pilot who stepped out of the aircraft was himself blind in one eye, as evidenced by the black eye patch he wore. The man was Wiley Post, an unknown ex-convict who had just completed his first solo flight, and who also had a brother named Joe who lived across the road from Carter’s pasture.

Living with Carter was his 11-year-old daughter Pearl, whose thirst for learning and adventure seemed inexhaustible. Already, she not only drove automobiles, but served her father as his business chauffeur. After lunch, Post asked Carter would he enjoy a ride aloft. Carter, despite his blindness, accepted. When they returned, Pearl peppered them both with questions, then announced she would like to go up next. Her biographer Paul F. Lambert described what followed:

“With George’s permission, Pearl became Wiley’s next passenger that day. Wiley could see that Pearl was fearless and eager to learn. The plane had dual controls, so Wiley decided to give her a basic flying lesson. First he had her put her feet on the pedals that controlled the ailerons so she could feel how they moved and how the plane responded when Wiley manipulated them. He also told her to hold her stick ‘real light.’ Pearl was enthralled. She knew immediately that she wanted to learn all about flying.”

Over the next months, Post returned to Marlow to see his brother, visit with George—their eye problems strengthened the two’s bond—and coach Pearl as an aviator. The next year, when she was 12 and under five feet tall, George spent nearly $5,000, a hefty amount then, to build her a state-of-the-art Curtiss Robin airplane. He spent additional money to clear a small airfield and construct a hangar.

Nearly 26 feet long and 41 feet in wingspan, the Curtiss Robin weighed close to three-quarters of a ton and featured a powerful OX-5 engine. The model gained fame as the aircraft of choice for the era’s daredevil barnstorming pilots, who traveled through the American heartland staging flying shows.

The following year, at age thirteen, after continued coaching from Post, Pearl flew solo, thus becoming the youngest aviator in American history. For the next five years, she gained fame, first for that, then as a daredevil stunt flyer at popular southern and western Oklahoma air shows. She excelled in barrels rolls, spins, dives, and other airborne feats. She even attempted to parachute out of a plane, though her parents vetoed that effort.

Pearl married Marlow farmer