AKA Nancy Hopkins
  Nancy Tier  
Nancy Hopkins, 1930
Collection of Walter E. Lees

via email from Fred Cunningham, 8-14-04
     I happened upon your site and saw the story about Nancy Hopkins Tierůmy wife's grandmother. She died January 13th 1996. Her first pilot's license was signed by Orville Wright and she was a charter member of the Ninety-Nines. During one of her early solo test flights she went into a flat spin. As she climbed on to the wing to bail out, the plane came out of the spin and she landed safely. She talked about the Ford Reliability Tour. The picture on your web site is in our living room. She was a colorful gal with an interesting lineage. One of her uncles was Charles Dana Gibson of "Gibson Girl" fame. If I have my story straight she was named after another one of her relatives Nancy Astor. And the Hopkins name is closely related to Johns Hopkins. I would have to verify the particulars but these are among some of the family stories I have heard. However, I don't think Irving Tier ever owned a "fleet of planes" as it says on your web site. He and Nancy may have owned a plane each at the same time but Irving pretty much "tinkered" throughout his life having to work thanks to his Aunt Kitty. Small world this Internet.
Fred Cunningham


Aviatrix Married to Aviator in
Thomas N. Tracy's Home
in New Haven
She is Niece of Charles Dana Gibson --
Couple Are to Live In New Haven
Special to The New York Times.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., Feb 24, 1931.-
Announcement was made today of the marriage yesterday of Miss Nancy Hopkins of this city, daughter of Dr. Alfred R. Hopkins of Washington, D. C., to Irving Vanderroest Tier, son of Mrs. Arthur J. Crawford, of Deepwood Drive of this city. The Rev. Franklin J. Kennedy of the First Methodist Episcopal Church performed the ceremony in the presence of a few intimate friends at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas North Tracy, 39 Goodrich Street. A reception followed at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Ellsworth Gross, 4 Prospect Court.
     Mrs. Tier, who is a niece of Charles Dana Gibson, is an aviatrix. Last year she flew in a Kitty Hawk plane in the Ford Reliability Tour. She received her education in the Central High School, Washington, D. C. Mr. Tier was graduated from Hamden Hall and Silver Bay School, Lake George, N. Y. He is also an aviator
     Following a short wedding trip, Mr. and Mrs. Tier will make their home in this city.
Collection of Fred Cunningham, 8-17-04

Niece of Lady Astor Straightens
Out Plane Diving Rapidly in Spin
Special to The New York Times.
ROOSEVELT FIELD, L. I., Dec. 8. --Mrs. W. Irving Tier, the former Miss Nancy Hopkins, 23-year-old niece of Lady Astor, had a narrow escape here today while taking her final flying test for a license as a transport pilot. In one of the necessary manoueuvres, a four-turn spin, she threw the plane at an altitude of 3,500 feet and it failed to recover itself.
     Terrified she struggled to free herself from the cockpit. The centrifugal force of the spin held her fast, however. As a last resport she steeled back into her seat and worked the controls while the horizon whirled dizzily around her. As the plane descended to 1,000 feet the nose dropped and the craft gathered speed in its spinning dive. A split second later, at 800 feet, it responded to rudder control and the pilot brought it out into a straight power dive.
     Because she had been a limited commercial pilot for some time her inspector, George D. Ream of the Department of Commerce, expected no untoward event in her examination today and stood on the ground manoeuvres. When Mrs. Tier landed, however, she was so nervous that her test was put off until later in the week. The cause of the failure of the plane to recover from its spin was unknown.
Collection of Fred Cunningham, 8-17-04

IN THE 1930
     "Ever since I was in high school, I had just one determination---to fly. I don't know why either."
     She says she didn't get much encouragement from the all-male staff at the flying fields, who may or may not have known she was a niece and namesake of Lady Astor. When she made her first flight, a perfect landing in the crosswinds across the Potomac, the social reporters and Ernie Pyle all wrote features about her. Later she moved to the Old Curtiss Field on Long Island, working in the same office as George C. Dade,and taking more lessons in her spare time.
     Tier became so good that she was invited to fly in the 1930 Ford Reliability Tour, one of the most famous air events of this decade of developement. Edsel Ford of the automobile family was trying to prove that airplanes---particularly Ford-produced airplanes---were so dependable, they could keep a regular schedule. The tour was first held in 1924, and by 1930 it had been expanded to a five-thousand-mile marathon around the United States, with a daily itinerary that had to be maintained.      "You started in Dearborn, Michigan," Tier recites, "flew on to Kalamazoo for lunch, then flew to Chicago and stayed overnight. Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Wasau, you kept going for sixteen days, regardless of weather. You were trying to show you could maintain your pace despite the weather. Down the Rockies, Great Falls, Sheridan, Colorado Springs, Cheyenne, Garden City, Kansas."
     "I had a forced landing in Arkansas," she continues. "She really blew at four thousand feet over the Mississippi, forty miles from Memphis. I just made a big circle---I was used to landing in small fields. I landed in the back of a little shack, tree stumps all around, hit an irrigation ditch and blew a tire.
     "But the main thing was to see what was wrong. I pulled the propeller, checked out the cylinders, found the problem, went to work with a screwdriver and some wire, and it started right up. All I could think about was the great shop course back in Central High, and how glad I was to take it."
     The twenty-two-year-old pilot kept her schedule that day, despite the breakdown, flying out of the stump-filled field, and finishing fourteenth out of nineteen pilots. A year later she married Irving Tier, who owned a fleet of planes in Connecticut, and she did not compete in races after starting a family.
From Getting Off the Ground by George Vecsey & George C. Dade,
E. P. Dutton, 1979

Editor's note: Walter had only saved a couple of photos from his experience in the 1930 Ford Reliability Tour. I was fortunate to find the story of Nancy Hopkins Tier in the book, Getting Off The Ground. Her recounting of her participation in the Tour helps to fill out the story, as well as being interesting in its own right. I found her listed as one of the Associate Members of the Early Birds of Aviation in the 1995 Roster. Unfortunately, a call to her phone number returned only "The number you have reached is no longer in service." I'm afraid that another of the pioneers has passed on. (April 28, 1998)

     If you search for "Nancy Hopkins Tier", using the Google search engine, (8-15-04), you will find about 22 links. The following two entries offer some substantial information.

     This page offers a very concise and complete summary of her life and career. It deals with her family background and mentions many of the notable events in her long and illustrious career which extended from the time of her solo in 1927 until her retirement in 1994. It is a good starting point for anyone who wants to know more about her role in aviation history. You can access the page by clicking on the page above.

     This page on The Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame section offers a brief but important summary of some of the events in her career. In addition, it offers capsule biographies of many notable women aviators who were active from 1992 to 2002. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.

Nancy Hoplins Tier died January 13th 1996
Personal communication from Fred Cunningham, 8-14-04
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