Born in Pensacola, Florida on June 28, 1926, Betty Skelton developed a liking for aviation early on. Skelton began lessons as early as 8 years old and took the controls of an aircraft at 12 years old. She legally soloed at the age of 16 and soon after, acquired her private pilot’s license.
Skelton wanted to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) but it had disbanded before she could join. Not being able to join WASP, she worked as a clerk for Eastern Airlines and continued to fly on her time off. After receiving her commercial license, she became a flight instructor shortly after where she instructed out of Peter O. Knight Airport. She was also a member of the Civil Air Patrol.
After building more time, she went into aerobatics and began to perform for the public. Eventually, Skelton bought her own aircraft, a 1929 Great Lakes 2T 1A Biplane, named “Little Stinker” that she used in her aerobatic performances. She won her first International Aerobatic Championship in January of 1948. She won the same award in 1949 and 1950.
She set a few records in her day, one was an altitude record set by her flying a Piper Cub up to 25,763 feet in 1949 and broke her own record in 1951 in the same aircraft and went up to an altitude of 29,050 feet.
In 1951 she retired from aerobatics and donated her aircraft Little Stinker to the Smithsonian in 1985. She went into automobile racing after her aviation career and broke a few records during the course of her career. Skelton and her husband moved to Florida in 1976 and kept a seaplane in Winter Haven. She remained in Florida until her death in August of 2011.