Lawrence Sperry

Flier, Inventor
Mile High Club’s Founder
Page B22 – Atlantic Flyer, May 1993

lawrence sperry“There are countless milestones and record breaking performances throughout aviation history; altitude and speed, distance and endurance, and so forth. Perhaps the most highly prized and sought after is the entry into the Mile-High Club – that fraternal order of pilots, both male and female, who have achieved orgasm aloft. There are no official numbers, but evidently those who manage copulation in the air are far fewer than those making claim.”

lawrence sperry“If it is a major aeronautical achievement as everyone claims, then proper recognition should be given to the first person to attempt the sacred act at altitude. That honor can only be bestowed upon Lawrence Sperry, a daredevil pilot, mechanical genius, and of course, inventor of the automatic pilot. Born on December 22, 1892, Sperry lived only a scant 31 years. But in that short lifespan his accomplishments were great. At the age of 18, he built a full scale glider that flew. Wild in the sky, he made his first parachute jump in 1918 and flew loops under the Brooklyn Bridge. He would be the first person to fly a woman over New York City. As a mechanical visionary he invented the turn and bank indicator, retractable landing gear, and perfected the aerial torpedo. During his short remarkable life he held 24 patents.”

lawrence sperry“Besides intellect, Sperry was also handsome and rich, a combination that led to a succession of women, and according to biographer William Davenport, oftentimes multiple partners. The tabloids liked him, and had a field day with the stories about drinking and wild parties. You have to remember this was during a time when it was unlawful for women to display bare arms in public.”

lawrence sperry“It was during November of 1916, when Sperry began giving flying lessons to a New York socialite by the name of Mrs. Waldo Polk. Polk’s husband was off in France driving an ambulance at the time. The couple were aloft in a Curtiss flying boat over Babylon, New York one day, evidently engaging in carnal pleasure through the benefit of Sperry’s recently devised autopilot. Suddenly something went wrong, and the plane plunged 500 feet into great South Bay.”

“Two duck hunters paddled to the wreck and rescued, much to their amazement, the naked couple. Apparently Sperry stated the crash “divested” them of their clothing. The couple was brought to Southside Hospital, with Sperry walking, and Polk alongside in a stretcher.”

sperry5“Local papers glossed over the fact that the duo lacked any clothes, but the New York tabloid Mirror & Evening Graphic, headlined their front page with:


“Both instructor and student survived their ordeal and Sperry later told a friend that he bumped the gyro platform during their aerial maneuvering. Sperry would crash his Sperry Messenger biplane in the English Channel seven years later, ending his life.”

“And Mrs. Polk…well, she continued taking flying lessons and did obtain her pilot’s license.”

Special thanks to Mr. Lawrence Sperry of the Sperry Corporation for allowing us to reproduce his late grandfather’s mile high club story.