The flying Brazilian

on Oct 1, 2013 in Landing | No Comments

Ada Rogato

Ada Rogato (1910-1986) was born in São Paulo, the daughter of Italian immigrants. After a trip to Maceió, her parents separated and she and her mother moved to São Paulo, where Ada developed a passion for all things airborne. All of this coincided with 1934 and the visit of the German committee promoting gliding and the launch of the sport in Brazil. Ada was one of the first pupils, obtaining her glider pilot’s license in 1935 and becoming the first Brazilian woman to do so. The following year, she became the third woman in Brazil to obtain her full aeroplane pilot’s license and shortly afterwards began participating in air shows and flying passenger planes.

With no family fortune to support her, Ada took a typing course and started working for the Instituto Botânico (Botanical Institute) and throughout her life she conciliated her flying with her work as a civil servant. In 1941, she was the first women in South America to get a skydiver’s certificate and would later become a champion at the sport.

In the meantime, she acquired a Paulistinha, a high-winged two-seater plane, which was similar to the American Piper Cub. In 1948, the Botanical Institute recruited her because of her skills and 1,200 hours-plus of flying experience for a dangerous job: spraying insecticide over the region’s coffee plantations affected by the borer beetle pest. In addition to the need for skillful flying, the insecticide meant having to wear protective clothing and masks, which were later banned for being a health hazard. It was while doing this job that Ada had her only accident as a pilot. After recovering in hospital, she returned to flying, demonstrating her energy and willpower.

Other examples of her character would be seen when, in 1950, she took time off from the Botanical Institute to fly at her own expense to Paraguay, Argentina and Chile, where she participated in a number of exhibitions, as well as crossing the Andes in the Paulistinha, Brasileirinho. For these achievements she was awarded an aeronautical merit medal and, more importantly, given a Cessna 140 called Brasil. With this plane, Ada would complete a journey that included the three Americas, arriving in Alaska after a six-month solo journey. In fact, all of Ada’s flights were done solo in low-power aircraft without the aid of sophisticated instruments. In 1956, carrying a picture of Our Lady of Aparecida, she fearlessly flew to a number of Brazilian cities in the interior of the country, becoming the first pilot to fly over the so-called “Green Hell” of the Amazonian forest.

Ada died in 1986 from a cancer that she may have developed because of her insecticide spraying duties. Her memory lives on amongst both Brazilian aviators and women.

text Ricardo Reis


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