The Award Winning Documentary that shares the Inspiring True Story of Twenty Women Who Raced Across America in the Summer of 1929.

The Derby of 1929 was more than a race; it was a chance to show the world that women can be independent, competitive, self-sufficient, intelligent, graceful, and really good pilots.

In August of 1929 ...

Twenty women pulled on britches, snapped on goggles, and climbed into their cockpits to race across America.

It was the First Women's National Air Derby. 

There was the media darling, the Hollywood starlet, the aviatrix record breakers, and the unforgettable foul-mouthed wife of a preacher. Together these women were Ambassadors of Flight during the Golden Age of Aviation.  

BREAKING THROUGH THE CLOUDS is the documentary that tells their story. 

What chances we took in those pioneer days of flying! What narrow escapes we had during takeoffs and landings on the many rough, short airfields of the twenties!

— Ruth nichols, derby contestant

The Story

Front-pages of nearly every newspaper in the country flashed headlines of the derby as readers eagerly followed the women’s progress from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio over nine days in the summer of 1929. 

Facing cultural stereotypes, mechanical failures, threats of sabotage, navigational challenges, and endless chicken dinners, the pilot's persevered to become pioneering legends in aviation.

The women's personalities shine in this film, from the cigar smoking, sailor swearing antics of Pancho Barnes, to the wildly celebrated Amelia Earhart and the glamorous Ruth Elder. In all, twenty brave pilots' passion for flying brought them to the starting line in California. Together, they defied convention by taking to the skies and racing across America.

This 20th Century's amazing race has largely been ignored until now. BREAKING THROUGH THE CLOUDS  shares the womens' stories, stressing the importance the race made for women, aviation, and the country.

BTTC can be seen on PBS stations across America. In addition, the film is available as a DVD and Video on demand. Click here for ways to see the documentary.

IMAGINE: Flying along at 1,000 feet in an open cockpit plane when suddenly you smell smoke and realize the worst has happened, you have a fire! 

VISUALIZE making an emergency landing in a field where all you can see are cows. As you descend in your bright red plane, you pray there are no bulls.

FEEL the hot desert sun blazing down and cooking you in the open sky as sweat trickles down your dusty and greasy face. 

HEAR the thousands of fans cheering your arrival at every stop and breaking through police barriers clamoring for your autograph. 

PICTURE wearing overalls to change the oil in your plane and then changing into a ballroom gown at night to attend one of the many banquets in your honor. Weird sunburn patterns, farmer's tans, and white circles around your eyes (where the goggles had been), create quite the picture. 

These are just a few of the scenes that occurred over a nine day period in 1929 during the First Women's National Air Derby. Star power, comradery, danger, public scrutiny, and glamour all come together in this historic race. There were emergency landings, accidents, damaged planes, and rumors of sabotage. There was a case of Typhoid Fever, a wayward trip or two into Mexico, and ultimately, a tragic death. Despite the hard times and challenges, there were plenty of good times, humor, and true friendships that lasted a lifetime. 

The drama, courage, laughter, and tears of these twenty brave pilots unfolds in BREAKING THROUGH THE CLOUDS.

breaking through the clouds logo tag copy.jpg