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Elisa Deroche, the first female pilot













Élisa Deroche, known under the pseudonym Baronne Raymonde de Laroche, is a French aviator born August 22 , 1882 in Paris ( 4th  arr. ) 1 and died on July 18 , 1919 in Le Crotoy . She was the first woman in the world to obtain her pilot's license on March 8, 1910.

Élisa Léontine Deroche was born in the Marais district at number 61, rue de la Verrerie in Paris, to Charles-François Deroche portfolio manager and Christine Calydon Gaillard. As a young woman, she began an artistic career.

On December 15, 1903, at the Sarah Bernhardt theater , she played the role of Doña Sérafine in the play La Sorcière by Victorien Sardou 2 . On October 10, 1904, at the Mathurins theater , she played the role of Maria in the play Baptiste by Michel Carré 3 . On December 16, 1906, at the Réjane theater , she played the role of Rigolboche in the play La Savelli, an adaptation of Gilbert-Augustin Thierry's novel, with a production by Max Maurey 4 It was during this period at the theater that she will take the pseudonym of "  Baroness Raymonde de Laroche  », In memory of his granddaughter, Raymonde Marguerite Charlotte Thadome, who died on March 25, 1902 at the age of seven and a half months 5 , n 1 . She is also devoted to painting and sculpture and motorsport.


Very early on, the young Elisa Deroche developed a passion for sports. In 1892, at the age of ten, he was offered a pony  ; she developed a passion for horse riding and then successively tennis, rowing, skating, and cycling 6 . Around 1902, she will drive a motorcycle, modeled on the Werner Brothers . It was also in 1902 that she obtained her driving license 7 . On September 13, 1906, Raymonde de Laroche was present in Bagatelle , when Santos-Dumont made a successful first flight. On January 13, 1908, she was in Issy-les-Moulineaux , when Henri Farman made a loop of one kilometer 8 .

Raymonde de Laroche will be interested in the studies and experiences of Blériot , Ernest Archdeacon , and the Voisin brothers. After studying various aircraft, she chose the Voisin biplane for these qualities of handling, stability and ease of piloting, and it was in 1909 that she met Charles Voisin , founder with her brother Gabriel of the company Voisin Frères 9. .

Raymonde de Laroche can no longer remain a mere spectator of the pioneers of aviation  ; she confirms her decision to carry out her first flight alone on board. And it is the aviator engineer Édouard Château who will take charge of his training at the Châlons camp in Mourmelon.

On October 22, 1909, she will make her first flight alone aboard a Voisin biplane over a distance of 300 meters, the next day she will do better with a flight of 6 kilometers, still under the vigilance of Mr. Château 10 .

On January 1, 1910, she took delivery of her Voisin biplane and made a fine seven-minute flight, but was stopped by the night so that she could not compete for the pilot's license (see the newspaper the Auto of January 2, 1910 page 3)


January 4, 1910 Raymonde de Laroche trains to obtain her pilot's license on the Bouy field, she takes her flight around 3 p.m. in a weak wind, she makes a first lap of the track flying at four meters high in perfect conditions, when on the second lap, having taken a turn too wide and not being able to climb high enough, she crashed into the poplars bordering the road, the aircraft fell suddenly, she was lying unconscious and immediately transported to Mourmelon ( see the newspaper l'Auto of January 5, 1910 page 3) That same day Léon Delagrange was killed on the ground of La Croix-d'Hins in Gironde (see the newspaper l'Auto of January 5, 1910 page 1)

It was during the Heliopolis meeting in Egypt from February 6 to 13, 1910 that the Aero-Club de France will validate the obtaining of the pilot's license from Baroness de Laroche, which will be issued to her on March 8, 1910. She is the first woman, in France and in the world to obtain the pilot's license, no  36 of the Aéro-Club de France 11 . However, she was not the first woman to have piloted an airplane solo, it was Thérèse Peltier who preceded her by making a flight in September 1908 without having a certificate. From then on, she took part in numerous aerial gatherings, both in France and abroad, such as Héliopolis , the Meeting de Tours from April 30 to May 5, 1910, the meeting in Saint Petersburg from May 8 to May 15, 1910, where , in front of Tsar Nicolas II , Élisa de Laroche will make a splendid flight  : at a height of 100 meters, it cuts off the engine of its biplane to land in gliding 12 . It also occurs at the Budapest meeting from June 5 to 15, 1910 and at the Rouen meeting from June 19 to 26, 1910.

From July 3 to 10, 1910, it appeared during the second great aviation week in Champagne . She was seriously injured during a meeting in Reims , July 8, 1910, her plane having crashed  ; it will be transported to Doctor Roussel's clinic in Reims. Recovered, she left the clinic on October 7, 1910 to return to her Parisian home 13 , n 2 .

On May 20, 1911, Raymonde de Laroche was appointed Academy Officer by Théodore Steeg , Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts 14 .

September 14, 1911 at the Meeting of Dinard on the beach of the Lock Roland Garros made a beautiful flight of ten minutes over the sea with Raymonde de Laroche as a passenger (see La Revue Aérienne of September 25, 1911 page 483)

On September 26, 1912 at Corcelles-en-Beaujolais at a place called La Lime, Charles Voisin was driving his car, a Hyspano-Suiza, with La Baronne de Laroche, when suddenly they were victims of a terrible accident. His close friend Charles was killed instantly, Raymonde de Laroche was thrown out of the car and got away with a few bruises (see the Auto newspaper of September 28, 1912, page 3).

After a long period of convalescence, following his accident of July 8, 1910, and nostalgic to regain altitude, fleeing all the remonstrances that his friends and family might have given him, Raymonde de Laroche comes to an agreement with the manufacturer Sommer to resume training at Mourmelon, in November 1912 15 .

During the year 1913 she will train at length in Buc at Farman. On May 23, 1913, leaving Buc, Raymonde de Laroche will fly for more than an hour at a height of 100 meters, the night will force her to return and she will land masterfully in a gliding flight near the hangars (see the newspaper l'Auto of May 24, 1913 page 3)

From July 12 to 14, 1913 at the Meeting of La Ferté-Vidame, she will present exhibitions on July 13, note the presence of the aviator Jacques Vial her future second husband (information announced in the newspaper l'Aéro of July 12, 1913 page 4 )

From August 10 to 18, 1913 at the Granville meeting, she was particularly distinguished by magnificent evolutions on her hydro-plane-Henri-Farman-Gnome, despite a violent wind she ventured daringly at sea in the direction of the Chausey Islands after veering seven or eight kilometers offshore, she returned to land superbly greeted by cheers (see the Aéro newspaper of August 11, 1913 page 2)

On November 25, 1913 in Mourmelon at Camp de Châlons, Raymonde de Laroche won the Femina Cup for distance and duration, on an H. Farman-Gnome biplane, she took to the air at 7h 5mn and turned on the 10 kilometer track. and covered a distance of 323 kilometers for 4 hours, but as a result of a malfunction of the fuel pointer she reluctantly ended her flight at three past twelve. Note that the Femina Cup was previously held by Ms. Pallier on November 10, 1913, having traveled a distance of 290 kilometers in 3 hours 40 minutes (see the newspaper l'Aérophile of the year 1913 page 543)

In August 1914 his Henri Farman 60 HP N ° 69 device was requisitioned, in October 1914 Reims was bombed, his home at N ° 6 rue Coquebert was probably destroyed, she remained in Paris at N ° 5 rue des Belles Sheets. She wanted to take place in a squadron and compete in daring with our boldest pilots, but the authorization she requested with such insistence was mercilessly refused (see the newspaper Le Petit Journal of July 19, 1919 page 1)

On April 21, 1919 Raymonde de Laroche resumed training at Issy-les-Moulineaux, she piloted a Caudron G3, and her first post-war tests were most encouraging (see the Auto newspaper of April 21, 1919 page 2 )

She broke the women's altitude record on June 6, 1919, at Issy-les-Moulineaux she piloted a Caudron G3, she took off at 8 hours 38 minutes in the presence of the Aéro Club de France commissioner, the sky was clear at the start but was covered quickly, at 10 hours 27 minutes 30 seconds it returned to land, the recording barograph indicated an altitude of 3900 meters (see the Auto newspaper of June 7, 1919 page 1)

According to the comments of the newspaper l'Auto of June 8, 1919, learning of the performance of Raymonde de Laroche the American Ruth Law declared that in September 1917 she would have reached the altitude of 4,240 meters, it seems surprising that the aviator American waited nearly two years to claim a record that has never been approved (see the Auto newspaper of June 8, 1919, page 1).

New altitude record on June 12, 1919 at Issy-les-Moulineaux, Raymonde de Laroche takes off at 19 hours 8 minutes and 45 seconds, with remarkable regularity, the courageous aviator rises to more than 4000 meters, but by Following the fog she was forced to land around 9:15 p.m. at nightfall, at Gastine 8 kilometers from Nangis, the landing was perfect, the barograph indicated 4800 meters, her performance broke the record claimed by Ruth Law ( see the newspaper l'Auto of June 14, 1919 page 1)

This feat will mark the peak of his career. because she died on July 18, 1919 during a training flight, on a Caudron model G3 prototype, when she was not at the controls  : piloted by the aviator Barrault, the aircraft crashes on the beach of Crotoy.

Élisa Deroche rests in the Père-Lachaise cemetery , in the 92nd  division.




Avion Voisin
biplan voisin
Elise Deroche
raymonde de laroche
An autograph of Raymonde de Laroche given after 1910 accident.
Raymonde de laroche
Elisa Deroche

Of all French military aircraft, the Caudron G.3 was the only aircraft to be built continuously from September 1914 until the Armistice. Despite a magnificently fulfilled career, it was through exploits after 1918 that he remained in the  memories until today.

Artillery Observer

In August 1914 only one squadron had a two-seater Caudron G.2 for reconnaissance and observation of Artillery, the C.11; a second, unofficial, the CM, had single-seaters. Their crews were particularly effective in directing artillery fire during the Battle of the Marne, so that the improved version of the G.2, the G.3 was retained as one of the four standard airplanes of the Aeronautics by General Hirschauer.


The G.3 did wonders in its initial role by inaugurating the operational use of the TSF to communicate with the gun batteries, but also as a photographic reconnaissance aircraft and even a light bomber. Very safe and manoeuvrable plane, of very simple construction, it forgave piloting errors and its very wide track gear guaranteed a safe landing. Only its top speed left something to be desired.


Large-scale production was first carried out jointly by Caudron in Lyon and Issy-les-Moulineaux, Blériot in Suresnes and SPAD (Deperdussin), the latter two being out of workload. The Caudron G.3 no longer met the requirements of combat in 1916. On the other hand, when it entered schools, it enjoyed considerable success with instructors and students, including Fonck, l'As des As, Fronval and Delmotte.
At the Armistice, 2,402 units had been built, some of which had been used by Italy, Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Serbia and Russia.

Achievements in peacetime

At the end of hostilities, Jules Védrines, the Ace of Special Missions, landed on the roof of Galeries Lafayette with this plane without brakes - powerful arms kept it from tipping over. Adrienne Bolland became, on April 1, 1921, the fourth person to cross the Andes Cordillera and François Durafour landed just below Mont-Blanc on July 30, 1921.


Élisa Deroche rests in the Père-Lachaise cemetery , in the 92nd  division.

tombe Elisa Deroche
tombe Elisa Deroche
plan père lachaise
Raymonde de laroche
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