First Airplane Baby, Born in 1929, Named Airlene

Fokker TrimotorOn 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?

Sources:

  • 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.

Image: LoC (that particular Fokker Tri-motor was the one flown by Lester Maitland in 1927.)


10 thoughts on “First Airplane Baby, Born in 1929, Named Airlene

  1. Nancy,

    I can confirm your story as Airlene is a relative of mine who still lives in the Miami area. I wish I could tell you an exciting story about Thomas but alas there is no story that goes along with his naming.

  2. Dear Nancy (and Derek),

    I’m a student at the art academy in the Netherlands, and I’m building a project around the subject ‘airplane born babies’. I’m making a short abstract film about it. And I would like to use this particular story. Could one of you please help me with a little more information about Airlene? For example which area’s she live over the years, did she work and what kind of work?
    I hope you can help me with it!

    Kind regards,
    Sanne

  3. Hi Sanne,

    I don’t have much extra information about Airlene, unfortunately. Her husband’s name is Norman – maybe that will help?

    If you’re interested, I’ve posted the name stories of other airplane-born babies as well. They’re filed under transportation stories.

  4. Hey guys my name is leo minaya and I was born on American Airlines 1984. I am an actor and have an interesting life. I’m doing research to see how many of us have been born in the air. I enjoyed free flights and no real nationality. Ty for this article

  5. Well, well, well…The Little Book of Aviation by Norman Ferguson, published in 2013 by The History Press, talks about both Airlene and Guynemer, but doesn’t cite Nancy’s Baby Names — even though the Airlene story was first told in its entirety here.

    Not cool, History Press. Original research requires a proper citation.

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