Amelia Earhart is first woman in Bendix Trophy Race
Earhart again participated in long-distance air racing, placing fifth in the 1935 Bendix Trophy Race, the best result she could manage considering that her stock Lockheed Vega topping out at 195 mph (314 km/h) was outclassed by purpose-built air racers which reached more than 300 mph (480 km/h). The race had been a particularly difficult one as one competitor, Cecil Allen, died in a fiery takeoff mishap and rival Jacqueline Cochran was forced to retire due to mechanical problems, the "blinding fog" and violent thunderstorms that plagued the race.
Between 1930–1935, Amelia had set seven women's speed and distance aviation records in a variety of aircraft including the Kinner Airster, Lockheed Vega and Pitcairn Autogiro. By 1935, recognizing the limitations of her "lovely red Vega" in long, transoceanic flights, Amelia contemplated, in her own words, a new "prize... one flight which I most wanted to attempt – a circumnavigation of the globe as near its waistline as could be." For the new venture, she would need a new aircraft.
Amelia Earhart was the first of her sex to participate, taking fifth position with a Lockheed Vega in 1935.
Up until the early 1930's, the race was completely male dominated and the races were seen as no place for women. Admittedly, it was mainly the male pilots who kept women from competing. The tragic death of Florence Klingensmith at the Frank Phillips Trophy Races in Chicago flying her Gee Bee racer lead to Henderson ruling women out of the 1934 finals. However, women could not be kept from competing for long and the ban was lifted in 1935 following increasing pressure from America's increasingly talented top female pilots. The only question left was, "were women up to the stresses and endurance demanded by the race?".
Los Angeles to Cleveland
Ben O. Howard, 1st
Roscoe Turner, 2nd
Russell Thaw, 3rd
Roy O. Hunt, 4th
Amelia Earhart, 5th
Famous competitors for the trophy included James Harold Doolittle, who won the first race, and several women. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to enter the Bendix, taking fifth place in 1935. In 1936, Louise Thaden and her copilot Blanche Noyes won the race. Laura Ingalls finished second. In 1938, Jacqueline Cochran, arguably the greatest female aviator of all time, took home the trophy. Paul Mantz was the only pilot to ever win the Bendix three consecutive years, from 1946 through 1948.