Elly Beinhorn, referred to as “one of the most daring women of the 20th century” on the inside cover of her autobiography Alleinflug (Solo Flight), was born in Hannover, Germany in 1907 as the only child of a merchant family. In 1928 she was so fascinated by a lecture she attended held by the trans-Atlantic aviator Hermann Köhl that she immediately applied for acceptance to the Berlin-Staaken amateur pilot school. She received her amateur pilot license in the spring of 1929, and shortly thereafter she acquired her stunt pilot license at the flying school in Würzburg. Additional pilot licenses were to follow.
In 1931 she took off on her first solo flight to Africa. After a four-day-long trek through the desert, with the aid of locals she survived an emergency landing during her return flight to Europe, returning safely to Germany: “My emergency landing caused more headlines than my wildest flights.”
Several months later the 24-year-old ventured to circle the world in her Klemm KL-20 airplane. The flight took her via southern Asia to Port Darwin in Australia, where she boarded a ship to Panama. From there she flew via the Cordilleras to the east coast of South America, arriving in Buenos Aires on July 23, 1932.
In 1933 Elly Beinhorn was awarded the Hindenburg Cup, the highest German honor for an amateur aviator. With her famous Messerschmidt Me 108, which she christened “Typhoon”, in 1935 she flew from Gleiwitz in Silesia to Scutari on the Bosporus and back to Berlin in one day: 3,470 km in 13-1/2 hours.
In 1936 Beinhorn married the famous racecar driver Bernd Rosemeyer, who died in a car accident two years later, only ten weeks after the birth of their son Bernd. She remarried in 1941 and within a year gave birth to a much-longed-for daughter, whom she named Stephanie. After the war Beinhorn-Rosemeyer reapplied for and received her pilot licenses in Switzerland in 1951. Once the flying ban was lifted in Germany, she successfully participated in numerous competitions.