Maude Tait was born in 1901 in Chicopee, Massachusetts, she
was the daughter of James Tait. He was one of the Tait
Brothers who operated the Springfield Airport. James was
later president of the Springfield Air Racing Association.
S.A.R.A. Maude Tait was a pioneer aviatrix during the
1930's. She became a very accomplished pilot and established
several flying records.
She posted a new speed record for women on September 6,
1931, when she flew fifty miles at an average speed of 187.5
miles per hour; this beat even Amelia Earhart's previous
record by 10 mph, and missed the existing men's record by
only 1 mph. In 1929,she set an unofficial altitude record
for women by flying at 16,500 feet. She also was the first
woman in New England to hold a Transport Pilot license, the
highest rating given by The United States Department of
Commerce,.Maude Tait's world fame
rested on many racing achievements. Over the Labour Day
holidays in Cleveland, Ohio, she won many major races.
It was in September of 1931 at the Cleveland National Air
Races that she flew her Gee Bee Model "Y" Senior Sportster
NR11049 to victory, winning the Aero l Trophy Race, the big
Free-For-All race for women. She set a new women's
closed-course world speed record of 187.574mph, a feat
recognized by the National Aeronautic Association and the
Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
The prize for winning back in 1931 was a whopping
$3,750.Also at the 1931 air races while flying the 110
Warner Scarab powered Model E Sportster NC46V, she finished
3rd in both the Women's 510 cu. in. Free-For-All and the
Women's 650 cu. in. A.T.C. (Certified Aircraft). Oddly
enough, the finishing order in both races was the same.
Phobe Omline first and Mary Hazlip second in the Menasco C-4
powered Gee Bee Model "D" Sportster NC11043.
Maude Irving Tait Moriarty, born in 1901 in Chicopee,
Massachusetts, was one of the world's greatest flyers of her
time. Long before women made history in space, like Sally
Ride and Kathryn Sullivan, Maude Tait was a pioneer aviatrix
during the 1930's. Tait became a very accomplished pilot and
established several flying records. She posted a new speed
record for women on September 6, 1931, when she flew fifty
miles at an average speed of 187.5 miles per hour; this beat
even Amelia Earhart's previous record by 10 mph, and missed
the existing men's record by only 1 mph. In 1929, she set an
unofficial altitude record for women by soaring to 16,500
feet. She also was the first woman in New England to hold a
Transport Pilot license, the highest rating given by The
United States Department of Commerce.
Tait met her
challenges flying in one of the famous Gee Bee airplanes.
The name comes from the initials of the manufacturers name,
letters "G" & "B", which stood for Granville Brothers
Aircraft, Inc. Five brothers from New Hampshire started
their own aircraft repair business, Granville Air Service,
in Boston in 1925. The name was later changed and the Gee
Bee trademark was designed. The Granville Brothers'
innovative ideas and contributions to aerodynamic design had
a tremendous impact on the advancement of aviation
technology. Their high performance racing craft, designed
and built in their little shop at Springfield Airport in
Massachusetts, were the sensation of their time.
daughter of Springfield's prominent Tait family (which was
instrumental in bringing the Granvilles to Springfield, MA),
became the country's top woman air racer in her Gee Bee
Model Y Super Senior Sportster. White with bright red trim,
the new aircraft featured the "Filaloola Bird" painted on
its sides, a comic strip character of the day whose claim to
fame was its reputation for flying in ever diminishing
circles until it flew into its own tail feathers. The Senior
Sportster was truly a versatile plane, whether used for
racing, aerobatics or high speed cross-country flying.
Considered ahead of its time, it was propelled by a powerful
Pratt & Whitney engine. Tait's Senior Sportster was a deluxe
model, built by the Granville Brothers for her. In addition
to standard equipment, it was equipped with a Haywood
starter, metal prop, compass, and turn and bank indicator.
In 1929, within
a few months of setting up shop in Springfield, the
Granville Brothers' Gee Bee planes won national recognition
in a series of air races, in which pilots like Tait flew
city-to-city over much of the country. This was during the
tremendous growth in aviation that followed Lindbergh's
flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Maude Tait's exploits
in the Gee Bee Racing planes brought the Granville Brothers
and the city of Springfield to world pre-eminence in
world fame rested on many racing achievements. Over the
Labor Day holidays in Cleveland, Ohio, Tait won major
contests. It was in September of 1931 at the Cleveland
National Air Races that she flew her Sportster to victory,
winning the Aerol Trophy Race, the big Free-For-All race for
women. She set a new women's closed-course world speed
record of 187.6 mph, a feat recognized by the National
Aeronautic Association and the Federation Aeronautique
Internationale. The prize for winning back in 1931 was a
whopping $3,750. She also piloted one of the little Model E
Sportsters to victories.
1931 was the
year of great achievement for the Granville Brothers and
their planes. Their Gee Bees, piloted by Lowell Bayles, Bob
Hall and Maude Tait, swept the championships in the
week-long events. With their victories, Springfield became
for a time the world's capital city in aviation. When they
all returned home to Springfield, a crowd of 10,000 were at
Springfield Airport to greet them. Car horns blared, a drum
and bugle corps provided martial music and newsreel camera
crews and press photographers were everywhere. There
followed a parade through downtown Springfield and a formal
city reception, dinner and fireworks. The planes were roped
off and visited by thousands of spectators.
Maude Tate was
educated at Springfield's MacDuffie School for Girls,
LaSalle Seminary and Holland House School. She began her
professional life as a school teacher in a one-room
schoolhouse in Hampden, MA., later teaching third grade at
East Longmeadow's Centre School. She taught school until
1928, when she decided to become a full-time competitive
flyer. Her father and his three brothers were all aviation
enthusiasts. Together, they backed the Granville Brothers
early efforts to produce the sports-type airplanes.
She became one
of the nation’s first commercial pilots. While doing so, she
established a new altitude record for women, reaching 16,500
feet over Connecticut in 1929. On her first commercial
express flight, she delivered a radio set for a radio
company and a wedding gift for John Coolidge, son of the
former U.S President. Maude also flew over opening day of a
professional football season to drop the game football. She
was a "daredevil" to be sure!
breaking speed and altitude records for women flyers, she
had several mishaps, including forced landings due to
weather, a fire in her Gee Bee, a flight with fuel running
out, and a plunge to earth in a Crane Primary Glider due to
a gust of wind. Hospitalized for six months following her
crash in the glider, she was forced to wear a back brace for
Maude ended her
flying career when she married attorney James Moriarty. Mrs.
Maude Tait Moriarty said that during her precarious years of
flight she lived only "from day to day" and thought not
about longevity. In her later years she made few public
appearances, two of them in Springfield in 1978. She met
with and signed autographs for her many fans and friends,
(this writer included), during observances on the 75th
anniversary of the Wright Brothers Flight, and later
appeared at the Springfield Science Museum for ceremonies
inaugurating the Museum's Hall of Flight.
lived to be 81 years old. She was quoted as saying, "I
always wanted to pilot my own plane, I didn't feel daring,
just curious and interested in speed and altitude, and
always wanted to explore their possibilities."
The world of
flight has greatly changed since the early days of the Gee
Bee airplanes, but the same courage and enthusiasm still
soars in the hearts of future women aviators.