The Takeoff of Turi

turi, baby name, news, pilot
Turi Widerøe © 1970 AP

The simple name Turi has appeared just twice so far (as a girl name) in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: 10 baby girls named Turi
  • 1970: 9 baby girls named Turi [debut]
  • 1969: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Norwegian pilot Turi Widerøe, who was billed as the first female pilot for a major commercial airline in the western world. (Women were already piloting planes in communist countries like the USSR and Bulgaria.) She had joined Scandinavian Airlines System in May of 1969 and her assignment at that time was co-piloting a 56-passenger Convair 440 Metropolitan on SAS’s Lapland route above the Arctic Circle.

Her achievement was significant enough that SAS sent her on a whirlwind PR tour of North America in February of 1970. She came for three weeks and visited New York City, Toronto, Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The newspapers described Turi as “a 32-year-old blonde fro Oslo who has the height (just under 6 feet), the cheekbones and the long, shapely legs of a fashion model.” She was the daughter of Viggo Wideroe, co-founder of the regional airline Widerøes Flyveselskap AS, and she’d flown seaplanes for her father’s company for eight years before joining SAS.

She told U.S. interviewers that she wore pants (not a skirt) in the cockpit, that she’d only encountered a single instance of male chauvinism so far, and that she once had to swerve during a landing to avoid a fox on the runway.

During the week she spent in New York, she made several television appearances — mainly on news programs, but also on at least one game show (To Tell the Truth on CBS).

Speaking of TV, in September of 1971 — long after Turi had returned home — a documentary called What Makes Turi Fly? premiered on U.S. television. According to SAS, a total of 200 million people watched the program. This easily accounts for the name’s second appearance in the data.

The name Turi can be traced back to the Old Norse name Þórfríðr, which is made up of elements meaning “thunder” and “beautiful.”

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