Joan Merriam Smith

Birth Name:
Joan Ann Merriam
Birth Date:
August 3, 1936
Birth Place:
Oceanside, Long Island, New York
Death Date:
February 17, 1965
Place of Death:
Blue Ridge in the Ord Mountains, a few miles west of Wrightwood, California
Age:
28
Cause of Death:
Plane crash
Cemetery Name:
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Claim to Fame:
The Odd and the Interesting
Joan Merriam Smith was an American aviator, famous for her 1964 solo flight around the world in which she became the second woman to complete the trip, by following the equatorial route attempted in 1937 by Amelia Earhart. (Jerrie Mock set off the same week on a different route, and finished before Smith did.) In doing so she also became the first woman to fly a twin-engine aircraft around the world, and the first woman to fly the Pacific Ocean from west to east in a twin-engine plane. Following the equatorial Amelia Earhart route, Joan became the first person in history to successfully complete a solo flight around the world at the equator, as well as the first person to complete the Amelia Earhart route. Smith also was the the first person in history to fly solo around the world at the equator, to complete the longest single solo flight around the world, first woman to fly a twin-engine aircraft around the world, the first woman to fly the Pacific Ocean from west to east in a twin-engine plane, the first woman to receive an airline transport rating at the age of 23, the youngest woman to complete a solo flight around the world, and the first woman to fly solo from Africa to Australia, from Australia to Guam via New Guinea, and from Wake to Midway Island. Sadly she died the following year when the plane she was piloting suffered structural failure and crashed in California.

The Crash

Witnesses said that the airplane had been flying normally, estimated at between 1,000 and 2,000 feet (305–610 meters) above the mountainous terrain, when the right wing folded back along the fuselage. The airplane, with the engine revving, went into a dive and crashed into the north slope of Blue Ridge, a few miles west of Wrightwood, California, 10–12 seconds later. There was an explosion and fire and both Joan Merriam Smith and Trixie Ann Schubert were killed instantly.

Investigators found that both wings had failed outboard of the struts. The outer wing panels, both ailerons and the left elevator were located approximately 1½ miles from the point of impact. Examination showed that the aircraft had suffered severe loads. “There was no evidence of fatigue or failure of the aircraft before the inflight structural failure.”

The Civil Aeronautics Board reported the Probable Cause: “The pilot entered an area of light to moderate turbulence at high speed, during which aerodynamic forces exceeding the structural strength of the aircraft caused in-flight structural failure.” According to the CAB, the Cessna 182 had an airspeed in excess of 190 miles per hour when it entered the area of turbulence.

Cemetery Information:

Final Resting Place:

Forest Lawn Memorial Park

4471 Lincoln Avenue

Cypress, California, 90630

USA

North America

Map:

Map of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California
Map of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California

Grave Location:

Fond Remembrance, Lot 5027, Space 1

Grave Location Description

Park near Columbarium of of Sweet Memories. Walk on the sidewalk to the front of the columbarium, then follow the sidewalk to the left, walking toward Fond Remembrance Wall Crypts. Pass the large tree on the left, and turn left at the fifth row. You’ll see a large niche for Newton Wright on the right. Aviation pioneer Joan Smith is the 45th memorial.

Grave Location GPS

33.8323764, -118.0609960

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