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Wednesday, March 13, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Daredevil Flier Dorothy Stenzel

AP

PORTLAND - Dorothy Hester Stenzel, a pioneer aviator known as ``Princess Kick a Hole in the Sky'' during her barnstorming days of the late 1920s and early 1930s, has died of lung cancer.

Mrs. Stenzel, 80, died Feb. 25 in Bend, Ore.

She was born Sept. 14, 1910, in Milwaukie, Ore. At 17, she took her first ride in an airplane and became fascinated with flying.

She made her first parachute jump at a convention of the American Legion in Medford. J.G. ``Tex'' Rankin, a Portland stunt pilot, offered her a job making jumps at his weekly air show on Swan Island. She soon had earned enough to learn to fly.

She mastered stunts in an OX-5 Waco 10 plane and became a prime attraction at Rankin's air shows, dazzling spectators with loops and snap rolls.

She went barnstorming across the country with Rankin in 1931, giving exhibitions in 38 states during a three-month period in 1931, and set several world records.

One of them - performing 56 inverted snap rolls - remains unbroken, a record for both men and women. A women's record of 62 perfect outside loops remained in place for nearly 60 years until 1989.

She was made a life member of the Women's International Aeronautical Association in 1930, and was presented an airplane by the Great Lakes Aircraft Corp. in 1931. She opened her own flying school at the Rankin Airport in 1932, but grounded herself two years later to marry Robert D. Hofer.

In 1980, she was inducted into the OX-5 Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame, and was honored with a joint resolution by the 1985 Oregon Legislature ``for her courage, her determination and her achievements in aviation.''

The Seattle Museum of Flight named her to its Pathfinder Hall of Fame in 1989.

Reminiscing in 1981, she said flying was less complicated in her day: ``You could go at any time you wanted, fly at any altitude and in any weather. They didn't have these charts (pilots) fly by now.''

Mrs. Stenzel divided her time between homes in Portland; Palm Desert, Calif.; and the Washington coast.

Survivors include her second husband, Franklin H. Stenzel of Portland, daughters Sabine Ladd and Dorothy Vandehey, both of Fossil, Ore., and five grandchildren. A memorial service is pending.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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