High Society

High Society really did exist in the golden age of aviation. Here are a few photos and tidbits from that bygone era.

JAYNE SHATTUCK TOPPING. From The Evening News, Sault St, Marie, MI, Dec. 15, 1937,  “A Top Flight was made by Jayne Shattuck Topping, 32, society aviatrix, who flew from Detroit to New York in 2 hours, 20 minutes.”

Jayne Shattuck Topping


Here’s an absolutely gorgeous photograph of Carol Lombard prettily posed on a wheel pant of a 1935 Waco CJC. Andy Heins reports Carol was a pilot so this picture fits perfectly in our group of “High Society” flying photos.


Sadly it was a plane crash that took the life of Carol Lombard in 1942. She boarded a DC3 in Indianapolis for a 17 hour flight to Burbank, California. It made a scheduled stop at Albuquerque where there were nine officers waiting with military orders enabling them to bump any civilian off the plane. Lombard argued that having just sold two million dollars’ worth of war bonds, she must have some “rank.” The Army officers gave in and Carol Lombard stayed on the flight.

Plane Crash Site

From Time Magazine, “The pilot, Wayne Williams, seemed unconcerned when he reported at 7:07 P.M. that he was slightly off course, about thirty-five miles west of Las Vegas. Eyewitnesses later reported that it was just about that time that the plane burst into flames. Some thought it happened just before the plane hit Olcott Mountain, also called Table Rock.”


A 1933 RKO musical film staring Delores del Rio, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Billed as a “Musical extravaganza staged in the clouds!” And “Romance that soars to the skies on the wings of song!”




Lady Grace Drummand-Hay was the widow of a British diplomat. “As a journalist for the Hearst press organization, Drummond-Hay made her first zeppelin flight in October, 1928, when she was chosen to accompany five other reporters — including her companion and Hearst colleague Karl von Wiegand — on the first transatlantic flight of the Graf Zeppelin from Germany to America.  As the only woman on the flight, Drummond-Hay received a great deal of attention in the world’s press.” (From Airships.net)



From the Palm Beach Daily News, March 2, 1935; “Among prominent members of the international colony at the (Breakers) Hotel are Miss Ninette Heaton and her mother, Mrs. J. E. Heaton of New York and London. Although very young, Miss Heaton is an accomplished aviatrice and can be seen daily flying her red and silver plane in the sunny Florida skies.”

Ninette Heaton, In front of her Waco 1934

  • Mick
    Posted at 16:48h, 28 May Reply

    Grace Drummond-Hay was the widow of Sir Robert D-H, a diplomat, not a journalist.

  • elisa bretterebner
    Posted at 04:05h, 29 November Reply

    Great post and nice pictures!
    Love to read the storry and would have loved to be part of this impressive pioneer era. Hats off to these women, they really cleared the way in aviation for us.


  • tina thomas
    Posted at 12:18h, 21 November Reply

    Loved “Great Society”…would love to hear the full stories, Andy!

  • Gail
    Posted at 22:17h, 17 November Reply

    Flying Down to Rio is an absolute hoot–and a little scandalous considering when it was made. Great post Judy! I was just hearing a talk about Ms. Hay-Drummond-Hay last weekend.

  • Judy Birchler
    Judy Birchler
    Posted at 19:11h, 15 November Reply

    All great information Andy. So did Carol fly the Waco in the picture? I had to laugh when Boyd said, “I know how that wheel pant’s made and hope she didn’t break it!” Thanks for the pictures!

  • Andy Heins
    Posted at 08:56h, 15 November Reply

    I have a complete story written about Ninette Heaton from her daughter regarding her purchase and flights in the Waco when she was only 19 years old! I will forward it to you.

    Lady Grace Hay Drummond-Hay was also a pilot. She purchased a 1933 Waco UIC from the factory and even came over to watch the final assembly. She requested a special paint job on the wings. She was given an Egyptian Scarab beetle broach on one of her travels. She had the wings of the scarab beetle painted on the lower side of the top wings of the Waco. Quite striking and what a nightmare to paint! She and Karl Wigand returned to England with the Waco via ship and she flew it for about two years, when the airplane was sold to Australia. Lady Grace and Karl Wigand happened to be in the Philippines when WWII started and were captured by the Japanese. They were in a prison camp until the end of WWII. Lady Grace returned to New York following her release but was too ill to recover. She died shortly after arriving.

  • Andy Heins
    Posted at 08:40h, 15 November Reply

    Actually….Carol Lombard WAS a pilot.

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