Legends of Aviation # 12: Eula Pearl Carter
The youngest pilot to fly in the US
It was on September 12, 1929, when Elula Pearl Carter took her first solo flight at the age of 13 and became the youngest pilot in United States history. Pearl was born to George and Lucy Carter on December 9, 1915, in Marlow, Oklahoma. Mr. Carter a businessman who became blind at the age of 16 and Mrs. Lucinda Gibson, an original Chickasaw enrollee. Despite George’s disability, he always taught his children to never give up.
As evidence of his teachings, Pearl once said her father assured her that she could do just about anything. This seems to have been of great inspiration to Pearl who thought that she would need to try because he could not, and she could.
With a fearless approach to life, Pearl trained herself how to drive by the age of 12. Soon after this event, the pioneer and legend Wiley Post became her aviation mentor. Post took her for her very first flight and subsequently Pearl’s determination for becoming a pilot flourished, and with her father’s approval she started to take flying lessons. Pearl was given the chance to get a plane of her own, a dual controlled Curtiss Robin was the choice selected by Wiley, which had been previously used by the legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.
An airport and a Hangar were built, and George hired Slim Marshall, who would later become Pearl’s flight instructor. Her classes were scheduled virtually every day, before and after school Pearl would meet Slim and fly the Robin or the Eaglerock biplane, both equipped to land in pastures. Slim required to know about the nerve Pearl had in difficult situations, as part of one of his classes, he put the plane in a spin headed toward the ground. As near as 300 feet, he pulled out of the spin and dive while Pearl laughed at him.
Pearl gained Slim’s confidence and also realized that she loved stunt flying and later as a more experience pilot she could not resist doing it when in the air. A very memorable event, on the morning of Sept 12, 1929, Pearl performed her first solo flight. At the age of 13, Pearl became the first Chickasaw aviation and youngest flier in the United States.
After obtaining a student pilot’s permit by the Aeronautics Branch of the United States Department of Commerce in June 1930, she became a dedicated pilot, most of the time invited to demonstrate her skills and serve as a guest of honour in aviation events such as flying circuses.
At the age of eighteen, Pearl decided to put an end to her career, this was shortly before the birth of her second baby.
Pearl’s endeavors are greatly admired due to her courage and her attitude towards risks in stunt aviation. Furthermore, for being an activist at the Chickasaw Nation while serving three terms at its Tribal Legislature.
Pearl died in her beloved Marlow, Oklahoma in 2005. For her work, she is recognized in the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame and inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame as an Oklahoma legend.