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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Stenzel, Dorothy (Hester), 1910-1991



  • Existence: 1910-1991

Biographical Note

Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel was born September 14, 1910 in Ardenwald, Oregon (now known as the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhood of Portland) to William J. and Margaret (Burke) Hester. Her mother died when she was nine, leaving her father to raise her and her four sisters.

Stenzel dropped out of high school in her senior year to attend ground school, and did parachute jump exhibitions to raise the money she needed to get her through the flight training. She attended Tex Rankin's school in Portland and was the only woman in her class when she graduated from ground school. She continued on from ground school to flight training, despite the doubts Tex Rankin and others had about women flying. She found success during her flight training and soloed with Elrey Jeppesen on September 27, 1928, the fourth woman in Oregon to do so.

Stenzel impressed Tex Rankin with her perseverance and skill, and he asked if he could teach her acrobatics in return for her doing shows on Sundays. He now wanted to attract more people to his school and show that flying was for everyone. Stenzel's participation in these shows started her on a meteoric rise to fame as an acrobatic aviator. On June 30, 1930 she completed the first outside loop performed by a woman, and soon she was performing at air shows all over the country. During her shows, Stenzel flew a Great Lakes (1929) Model 2T-1A owned by Tex Rankin.

In addition to the performances, Stenzel operated a flying school at the Swan Island Airport (Ore.). She married Robert D. Hofer in 1934, but found out shortly after that he had advanced tuberculosis. Stenzel announced her retirement, giving up her flying and her school so that she could nurse her husband back to health.

Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel never lost her love for flight, and she stayed involved in the aviation industry. Her record of 56 inverted snap rolls still stands. She later married Franklin H. Stenzel, and died of lung cancer on February 25, 1991 in Bend, Oregon.


Biography derived from collection material and donor information.

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Biographical Information Files - S

Scope and Contents Individuals whose names begin with S: Sachs, Donald G. [Aeronautical engineer, B-17 pilot] Brief resumeObituaries, 1998 Saint Exupery, Antoine de [Pilot, author] "The Spirit of Saint-Exupery," no source, undated"Wind, Sand and Wars," Air & Space, December 1994/January 1995 Sakai, Saburo [WWII Japanese fighter...

John and Alan Blum Northwest Aviation Collection

Identifier: 2009-09-04
Abstract The John and Alan Blum Northwest Aviation Collection consists of visual and textual materials related to the lives and careers of John and Alan Blum. John founded the Northwest Air Service Company and Alan served as President after his brother died in a plane crash in 1931.

The James H. Dilonardo Collection

Identifier: 2006-01-21
Abstract James H. Dilonardo was a local aviation enthusiast strongly tied to Boeing Field and The Museum of Flight. His collection consits of photographs, textual materials, sound recordings, and film largely related to aviation in Seattle, Washington and the Pacific Northwest.

Joann Osterud Airshow Collection

Identifier: 2021-10-29-A
Overview Joann Osterud was a stunt pilot who flew in airshows from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Slides, photographs and audiovisual recordings in the collection document her stunt performances from her early career through 1990, including ones in her Stevens Akro plane which is in the Museum's collection.

Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel Collection

Identifier: 1992-09-26
Abstract Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel (1910-1991) was born in Ardenwald, Oregon and learned to fly in the late 1920s. Stenzel then gained fame for stunt flying and broke several records through the mid-1930s. The collection contains seven (7) scrapbooks and assorted textual materials and photographs that document Stenzel's career as one of the first female stunt pilots.

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