On 26 October 1929, a baby girl was born in an airplane flying above Miami, Florida.
It was no accident. Dr. Thomas W. Evans and his wife Margaret D. Evans had chartered a Fokker trimotor for the very purpose of having the first air-born baby.
They took off from the 1-year-old Pan American Field (now Miami International Airport). The pilot was C. W. Swinson. Also on board were doctors, nurses, a co-pilot and the baby’s maternal grandmother.
The plane circled the Dade County Courthouse at 1,200 feet during the birth, which occurred 20 minutes after takeoff. The plane then flew over Biscayne Bay for several minutes before landing. Mother and baby were transported to the hospital.
The story of the first airplane baby made headlines across the country. The parents received dozens of baby name suggestions, including “Airogene, Airlene, Biscayne, Pan Skymiss, Skylove, Sephrine and countless others.”
What name did they pick?
Aerogene, according to the first two sources I found. One source was an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics publication from three decades ago; the other was a book on aviation history from 1983. But I couldn’t find any vital records or other documents to confirm it.
Then I spotted the name Airlene Evans in a December 1946 issue of the Miami Daily News. It belonged to a student at Miami Senior High. The airplane baby would have been 17 at the end of 1946…could this be her?
Yes, I think so. A document I discovered via the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s website suggests that Thomas W. and Margaret D. Evans had two children named Airlene and Thomas.
So it looks like the first airplane baby was indeed named Airlene, not Aerogene.
(Now I’m wondering where Tom Jr. was born. Seems to me that the parents of the first airplane baby wouldn’t be satisfied with a mere hospital room the second time around. Too bad his name doesn’t offer any clues…)
UPDATE: Airlene ousted?
- Corn, Joseph J. The Winged Gospel: America’s Romance with Aviation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.
- “First Baby Born in Plane a Girl Up Above Miami.” Sarasota Herald 27 Oct. 1929: 1.
- “Names for Baby, Born in Plane, Sent to Parents.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 28 Oct. 1929: 5.
- Salty. “Fishing – Hunting.” Miami Daily News 12 Dec. 1946: 4-B.