Neta Snook Southern was born on 14th February 1896 in Illinois, America. Neta’s interest in machinery began with her father’s encouragement to learn about the workings of his cars and how to drive them. When her family moved to Iowa in 1915, Neta went to the State College to study mechanical drawing and farm machinery repair. She wanted to learn to fly but her application to join the Curtiss Aviation School was turned down because, at that time, women were not admitted, so Netta joined the Davenport Flying School in Iowa.
During the First World War, civilian flights were banned in America and Neta worked for a time at the British Air Ministry in Elmira, New York, inspecting and testing aircraft before they were sent to the war zones of Europe.
IN 1920, Neta went to work as a flying instructor at the Kinner Airfield in Los Angeles, where she became the first woman to run a commercial airfield.
In 1921, Amelia Earhart and her father visited the airfield and, after a flight which inspired Amelia they asked Neta to teach Amelia to fly, which is how their friendship began. Neta gave up flying to marry and have a family but after her famous pupil’s disappearance in 1937, she took up lecturing and wrote and published her autobiography. In 1977 Neta flew a replica plane of Charles Lindberg’s “Spirit of St. Louis and in 1981 she was acclaimed as the oldest woman pilot in America. Neta died on 23rd March 1991 at her home on a ranch in California.