Mary Victor Bruce, a pioneer aviator, race car driver and speedboat pilot, has died, her son said today. She was 94.
She died Monday “of old age,” said her son and only survivor, Anthony Bruce.
She was born Mildred Mary Petre on Nov. 10, 1895, to English nobleman Lawrence Petre, the squire of Coptfold Hall, and his wife, a Broadway actress. Her great-grandmother was a California gold miner.
Within months of taking up flying, Bruce went around the world solo in her airplane, Bluebird. The 1930 trip included a crash on takeoff in Baltimore and her arrest in New York for flying circles around the Empire State Building.
“She was flying such tight circles around the building that the typists inside said they could see the color of her eyes (blue),” her son said.
He said she was quickly released from arrest and celebrated by New Yorkers for her daredevilry.
Later in the same decade, Bruce performed death-defying dives from 2,000 to 50 feet for a flying circus.
She founded and owned an air ferry service that flew British newspapers and executives across the English Channel to Paris in time for breakfast. The airline was the first to use stewardesses, substituting young women for the traditionally male stewards.
In race car driving, Bruce won the 1927 Ladies Cup at Monte Carlo and set 117 world records for motoring, including traveling the farthest north into Lapland by motorcar.
She married Victor Austin Bruce in 1929. They were divorced in 1941.
At 81, she made a comeback after 37 years out of the air and looped the loop in a two-seater plane.