Onita Thorley Topping, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Robert A. Thorley of Cedar City, UT, was a popular and noted pilot of the 1930s. She learned to fly at the Von Hoffman School of Aviation at Lambert Field in St. Louis, MO. Onita earned her pilot’s license in 1930, her commercial rating in 1931, and subsequently secured a rating as Master Mechanic.
In addition to being one of Utah’s only female pilots of the era, Onita participated in one of the most important air events of the west coast; the 1935 Women’s Championship Air Races and Pacific Air Pageant for the Shell Trophy. The derby, only available for members of the elite 99s Club, consisted of an over-124 mile course from Glendale to San Diego. The winners were judged for their ability to gauge speed and altitude on the course, which stretched from Glendale to Santa Ana, San Juan Capistrano to Oceanside, and finally ending at Lindbergh Field in San Diego.
After spending several years in the private aviation industry via the Los Angeles Municipal Airport, Onita Thorley married the oilman Roger Keyes in 1939 and appeared to retire from the aviation industry.
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