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October 31, 2016

Ten Year Old Flier: Betty Lee Bennett, the Youngest Girl to Fly Alone in 1952

Ten-year-old Betty Lee Bennett has been up in the air a good part of her life. When she was six months old her father, Alfred Bennett, who is vice president of the Taylorcraft light-plane company, took her up for a ride, and at 3 she tried the controls.

In September 1952, she began training to solo, first by driving the family car around an open field by herself, then by taxiing a plane around an airport for hours. Almost every day her father gave her a lesson and two months ago he felt she was ready to fly alone.

The actual flight, which took place in Cuba because 16 is the minimum age for solo flying in the U.S. made Betty Lee the youngest solo flier on record.

Photographed from another plane, Betty Lee flies confidently over Havana.

LIFE photographed her slight by setting up a robot camera in the plane: each time Betty Lee moved the aileron controls she took her own picture. The 10-minute slight was perfect. During it Betty Lee seemed completely calm–far calmer than her father, who, though he insisted he was not nervous, suffered an understandable attack of fatherly fidgets.

On the ground, father squints and strains until plane is down.

In the air, unflustered daughter concentrates on her flying.

Blasé brother, Al Bennett Jr. (right), tries to act unconcerned by it all. He soloed last year in Mexico at the age of 11 and did it again this year after his sister had finished.

Betty Lee is rewarded with a hug from her father after the flight. She took right off again for second solo and after the second asked, “Please, may I go up again?”

Troublesome tooth is inspected by Betty Lee's father. It began loosening during the flight but she was too busy at the time to try to remove it..

Tooth is out after brief tugging. Betty Lee missed some school in going to Cuba and to an air show in Miami, but her teacher did not mind absences.

Kids roughhouse in the shade of the plane's wing. Their younger sister Kathie, 4, has tried flying but is too vigorous with controls to be trusted yet.


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