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Source Collection

Omlie, Phoebe Fairgrave collection, Special Collections Department, University Libraries, University of Memphis




A young Phoebe Fairgraves Omlie, sitting outside the cockpit of her light aircraft and wearing her flying gear. This was during her "Flying Circus" days. She was only a little more than five feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. Image is circa 1920s.

An American aviation pioneer, Phoebe Omlie was particularly noted for her accomplishments as an early female aviator. Omlie was the first woman to receive an airplane mechanic's license, the first licensed female transport pilot, and the first woman to be appointed to a federal position in the aviation field.

In 1922 she married her instructor, Vernon Cleophas Omlie (1895-1936), a talented pilot who has been an instructor during the war, while both were working for the Curtiss Field in Minneapolis. In 1925, the couple moved to Memphis, Tennessee, leasing the Millington airfield to establish a flying school and a chartered commercial air service. Vernon would later become the manager of Memphis Municipal Airport. During the Mississippi flood in 1927, Vernon and Phoebe flew rescue missions.

Date Created



circa 1920s


Omlie, Phoebe Fairgrave, 1902-1975; Photographs.