NATIONAL AIR TOUR, 1930
|Nancy Hopkins, 1930.|
"Ever since I was in high school, I had just one determination---to fly. I don't know why either."
She says she didn't get much encouragement from the all-male staff at the flying fields, who may or may not have known she was a niece and namesake of Lady Astor. When she made her first flight, a perfect landing in the crosswinds across the Potomac, the social reporters and Ernie Pyle all wrote features about her. Later she moved to the Old Curtiss Field on Long Island, working in the same office as George C. Dade,and taking more lessons in her spare time.
Tier became so good that she was invited to fly in the 1930 Ford Reliability Tour, one of the most famous air events of this decade of developement. Edsel Ford of the automobile family was trying to prove that airplanes---particularly Ford-produced airplanes---were so dependable, they could keep a regular schedule. The tour was first held in 1924, and by 1930 it had been expanded to a five-thousand-mile marathon around the United States, with a daily itinerary that had to be maintained. "You started in Dearborn, Michigan," Tier recites, "flew on to Kalamazoo for lunch, then flew to Chicago and stayed overnight. Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Wasau, you kept going for sixteen days, regardless of weather. You were trying to show you could maintain your pace despite the weather. Down the Rockies, Great Falls, Sheridan, Colorado Springs, Cheyenne, Garden City, Kansas."
"I had a forced landing in Arkansas," she continues. "She really blew at four thousand feet over the Mississippi, forty miles from Memphis. I just made a big circle---I was used to landing in small fields. I landed in the back of a little shack, tree stumps all around, hit an irrigation ditch and blew a tire.
"But the main thing was to see what was wrong. I pulled the propeller, checked out the cylinders, found the problem, went to work with a screwdriver and some wire, and it started right up. All I could think about was the great shop course back in Central High, and how glad I was to take it."
The twenty-two-year-old pilot kept her schedule that day, despite the breakdown, flying out of the stump-filled field, and finishing fourteenth out of nineteen pilots. A year later she married Irving Tier, who owned a fleet of planes in Connecticut, and she did not compete in races after starting a family.
E. P. Dutton, 1979
Editor's note: Walter had only saved a couple of photos from his experience in the 1930 Ford Reliability Tour. I was fortunate to find the story of Nancy Hopkins Tier in the book, Getting Off The Ground. Her recounting of her participation in the Tour helps to fill out the story, as well as being interesting in its own right. I found her listed as one of the Associate Members of the Early Birds of Aviation in the 1995 Roster. Unfortunately, a call to her phone number returned only "The number you have reached is no longer in service." I'm afraid that another of the pioneers has passed on. (April 28, 1998)