Aviation in 1937: Background information when reading The Game of Love and Death

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The Game of Love and Death

by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough X
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 352 pages

    Apr 2015, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Ellis Smith
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Aviation in 1937

This article relates to The Game of Love and Death

Print Review

Flora Saudade, one of the primary protagonists in Martha Brockenbough's The Game of Love and Death is an aviatrix. The novel takes place in 1937, a year that was full of aviation inventions and adventures. Here are a few highlights:

  • January 19 – Howard Hughes (pilot, businessman and investor) set a new world record, flying from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds.

  • Amelia Earhart March 17 – Early in 1936 Amelia Earhart began to plan her trek across the world. It would not be the first flight of its kind but the plan was for it to be the longest. Earhart would take an equatorial route, which would be 29,000 miles. Funded by Purdue, where she was working, a Lockheed Electra 10E airplane was built to Earhart's specs, which included a larger fuel tank. On March 17, Earhart was ready to begin her trek. She took off from California, but had to land in Hawaii due to technical difficulties. She was ready to go three days later, but at take-off there was another technical problem and the plane was grounded for another two and a half months.

  • April 12 – Sir Frank Whittle, an English Royal Air Force engineer air officer ground tested the first jet engine that was meant to power an airplane.

  • The Hindenburg Disaster May 6 – The German airship Hindenburg, close to completing its 11th trip across the Atlantic, exploded 200 ft over its intended landing in New Jersey. 97 people were on board, 35 died including a member of the ground crew. The survivors jumped to safety as the ship neared the ground. The video below shows live coverage of the event.

  • June 1 – Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) offers the first sleeper berths for U.S. passengers.

  • June 20 – A Russian ANT-25 (a rebuilt French Dewoitine D-33, a single-engine plane) claimed to have completed a transpolar flight, flying non-stop over the North Pole. Many inconsistencies led people to believe this was a hoax.

  • June 29-July 3 – Amelia Earhart made her second attempt to fly across the world. She and navigator Fred Noonan flew without publicity from California to Florida, where she then announced her plan to try the 29,000 mile trek once again, this time flying from east to west. They took off from Miami on June 1 and after many stops arrived at Lae, New Guinea on July 2. They were 22,000 miles into the flight. They left Lae on July 2, with the aim of landing next on Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean. They never arrived.

  • July 14 – A second hoax from a Russian ANT-25, claiming to fly a transpolar flight.

  • September 1 – Air Canada begins operations.

And other important aviation facts from 1937:

  • Willa Brown Willa Brown was the first African American woman to earn a U.S. commercial pilot's license in 1937. It's to be noted that while Brown was the first African American woman to do so in the United States, Bessie Coleman was officially the first African American woman to be a licensed pilot (in 1921) but she obtained her license in France.

  • Cornelius Coffey, a certified flight instructor and expert aviation mechanic at one of Chicago's racially segregated airports, opened the Coffey School of Aeronautics in 1937. Together with Willa Brown (who became his wife), he founded the National Airmen's Association of America in 1939, whose main goal was to get black aviation cadets into the United States military. In the capacity of national secretary and the president of the Chicago branch, Brown was an activist for racial equality.

  • Katherine Cheung was the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot's license in 1932. She also had an international airline license and flew a commercial plane, and she even flew aerobatics in an open cockpit fleet and competed in air races. Her plan was to return to China in 1937 to open a flying school, but when a friend was killed flying her airplane her father (who, up until then, had been supportive of her flying) made her promise to give up flying.

  • All American Aviation Inc. was founded in 1937. It was renamed Allegheny Airlines in 1952, then US Air in 1979 and finally US Airways in 1996.

The video below features live footage of the Hindenburg disaster:

Picture of Amelia Earhart from U.S. Library of Congress
Picture of Hindenburg Disaster at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey by Gus Pasquerella
Picture of Willa Brown from U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Game of Love and Death. It originally ran in April 2015 and has been updated for the April 2015 edition. Go to magazine.

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