Daredevil Betty Skelton

High-flying, fast-driving Betty Skelton (later Frankman) was born in Pensacola, Fla., in 1926. At age 12, she soloed in an airplane. By 1950, Ms. Skelton and her open-cockpit biplane, Little Stinker, were famous worldwide.

From 1948 to 1950 she won three international aerobatics competitions for women. One of her specialties was a maneuver known as "the inverted ribbon cut," in which she flew her plane upside down, 10 feet above the ground, and sliced through a ribbon stretched between two poles.

In 1949 and 1951 she set the world light-plane altitude record. In a car, she set the women's land-speed record three times at Daytona Beach, Fla., the last time being 1956 when she hit 145.044 m.p.h. in a Corvette (the men's record was only 3 m.p.h. faster). She holds more combined aviation and automotive records than anyone else - man or woman - in history.

Mrs. Frankman now lives in Winter Haven, Fla., where she has been caring for her husband and writing a book on the importance of accepting challenges.

"I still love fast cars, and would welcome another [opportunity] to top my old women's record," Frankman said via e-mail. She's still up for a challenge.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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