Marvell Crosson Died in Powder Puff Derby

   Marvell Crosson was the only pilot to die in the Powder Puff Derby. She was a very fine pilot who flew was a bush pilot in Alaska. She an her bother Joe went to Alaska because they knew that there were many jobs there. They intended to start an airline but the racing bug hit Marvel.
Before The Derby Marvel flew the entire course to know the route. She had the fastest plane in the race and was favored to be the winner. She was warned of sabotage because her plane was so much faster than the other planes. Marvel wasn’t deterred. She was confident that she would win.
After winning Marvel planned to go back to Alaska to build a home and continue to develop the airline business with her brother. She wasn’t afraid or concerned about the warnings of sabotage.
Unfortunately, she had problems right away. She damaged the left-wing after an accident. That was easy to fix but soon she developed engine trouble. She was an experienced pilot…how could this happen! Well it happened. By definition, it was an accident. No one knew where she was until her body was found in the desert of Arizona. The women of The Derby were shocked. Marvel was one of the most qualified pilots in the race.
Marvel’s body was found near her plane. Residents of the town of Welton, Arizona saw a plane falling out of the sky. Reports said her probably tried to jump to safety. It seemed that her plane developed engine trouble.She probably bailed out too low so her parachute couldn’t open in order to save her. It was so sad…this beautiful, talented lady found with broken bones and her parachute wrapped around her. She probably tried to pull the rip cord but it didn’t work.

  The women pilots said they needed to continue in Marvel’s honor. Unfortunately, the participants believed that sabotage was responsible for their problems.

Bobbi Trout

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         A tenacious pilot who never quit

Bobbi wore a flying suit that was given to her as a gift. She wore a leather helmet and an electronically heated flying suit.  Amelia admired it so much that she had one designed for herself. What an innovation to protect pilot from the freezing weather at high altitudes.

Bobbi soloed after 10 hours of flight

She won 2nd place in non-refueling endurance record

Completed the Powder Puff Derby but was not timed

2nd to accomplish non-refueling endurance record

Co-founded the Women’s Air Reserve

Honored in 1986 for her contribution in the field of aviation

Bobbi had many challenges in each flight she made. She was determined to complete the the races and achieve the many records. Many times she didn’t make her goals but just attempting these difficult flights was incredible.











Thea Rasche, the German Pilot

Thea Rasche was a German woman who participated in the Powder Puff Derby. Fellow pilots named her “Queen of the Air.” After a meeting with Amelia Earhart Thea became a charter member of the ninety-nines.


  • License signed by Orville Wright
  • First woman to own and operate an airplane in the state of Michigan
  • Came in 9th in Powder Puff Derby
  • First woman accepted by Parks Air College
  • Awarded Bronze Star Award from OX-5 Pioneers
  • Inducted into Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame
  • First woman in Germany to be awarded a seaplane license

This not a honor but Thea went back to Germany during World War II and joined the Nazi Party. She soon became a member of the Nationalist Socialist Flying Club. After the war she returned to Germany.

After the war she returned to the United States and she died in 1971.






Phoebe Omlie

I have written about so many of the pioneer women pilots. All of them are superb pilots in different ways. Unfortunately, each have one thread in common. Except for Amelia Earhart, all are unknown to the general public but in their day they were unique women.

   During her teen years she hung around an airport near her home. She talked a flight  instructors to take her up in his plane. He decided to make the plane spin and perform other acrobatic maneuvers. He hoped to scare Phoebe so she would never want to fly again but she couldn’t wait to fly again be up in the sky again.

      After graduating from high school she became a secretary but her heart was in the sky. She was fascinated about parachutes. She hired a teacher and financed the lesson .

Soon she married her teacher, Vern Omlie. He owned a flying school and together they formed the Omlie Flying Circus. Phoebe became very proficient in parachute jumping and even wing walking. Here was this tiny lady hanging by her teeth or walking on the wing of a plane. She even did the stunt flying in a movie called the “Perils of Pauline.”

The couple practiced very carefully and eventually Phoebe could move from one plane to another.  Incredible. Vern and Phoebe didn’t earn a lot of money with the flying circus. But Phoebe did get so much attention. This stunt helped Phoebe get the job of working on stunts for silent movie.

Vern and Phoebe flew very important mercy missions forest fires or floods. This showed the government and the public that planes were valuable in non military situations. They also were plane spotters. Phoebe Omlie is one of those fabulous pilots.

For More Information See:

High, Wide and Frightened: Louise Thaden

Women Aloft: Valerie Moolman

Powder Puff Derby: Gene Nora Gensen

Powder Puff Derby: Mike Walker

High, Wide and Frightened: Louise Thaden

Women Aloft: Valerie Moolman

Powder Puff Derby: Gene Nora Gensen

Powder Puff Derby: Mike Walker


  • First federal pilots license
  • First licensed female transport pilot
  • First position winner in light category in Powder Puff Derby
  • First women to be appointed to a federal position in the field of aviation
  • Highest altitude record.
  • Editor of Aero Digest
  • Organized the Memphis Aero Club
  • First woman official in the government to represent the field of aviation. She acted as a technical adviser the National Advisory Committee with the Bureau of Air Commerce.
  • Created navigational aids
  • Worked other pilots in the Air Marking Program
  • Worked with Amelia Earhart to make an air grid of the United States.
  • Coordinator in the research department of the Civil Aeronautics Administration

In 1936 Vern died in a plane crash. He was a passenger on a commercial flight. He was so careful about his flying and never crashed. It was sad that Vern died in such a tragic way. After Vern’s death Phoebe’s spiraled She then died of lung cancer.



























































The Mansion Called Raymere

                        Vicky and Ward would frequent this mansion often.

Raymere was the home of William C. Durant, the founder of General Motors and manufacturer of the Durant Motor Car. Raymere was located at 180 Ocean Ave. in Deal, New Jersey. This town is now called Deal. All the mansions of the ultra rich are gone but I found pictures of my aunt and different pictures of the Durant family. There are no captions on Vicky’s pictures so I had to guess at the location and the people. Vicky was in most of the pictures with location is defiantly Raymere.

Blanche Noyes

Blanche Noyes was a pilot in the Powder Puff Derby. I refer to the women as pilots not women pilots. They wanted to be spoken as equal to men in their abilities. Men weren’t thought of as male pilots so the women thought they shouldn’t be called women pilots. They hated being called flying flappers or that they were in the Powder Puff Derby. The women were determined that they were going to prove that they belonged in the world of aviation as much as men. This race would prove that fact. Blanche was determined to be part of this historic race. She would use every skill that she possessed. She wouldn’t let anything stop her flying.


Co-Pilot with Louise Thaden and came in first in Bendix Air Race…first race where women competed against male pilots

Charter member of 99’s

Demonstration pilot for Standard Oil

 Member of Women’s Committee on Aeronautics

Transport license

Wrote textbooks for air marking and designed air-markers

Worked in World War II lecturing new military pilots

Dad, Vicky and Ward at Raymere

wpid-dad-and-vic-at-raymere.jpg.jpegMy dad is kneeling and my aunt and her husband, Ward Lederer are on the far right. I have no idea who the other people are. They are standing in front of Raymere, the fourteen bedroom of home of William C. Durant. My Dad told me he didn’t know which spoon to use when he visited Vicky!

I hope that someone can recognize the others in the picture. It’s the only picture I have of my dad with his sister Vicky. I think that the picture was taken in the late 20’s.