PBS WORLD to Air BTTC Nationally, VOD Available

I’m excited to share a few  big updates regarding the award-winning documentary Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby.

First: In celebration of Women’s History Month, Breaking Through the Clouds will air Nationally on PBS WORLD March 4th and 5th 2016. Channels in more than thirty states have scheduled Breaking Through The Clouds for this two-day event, with more airings being added daily (check local listings).

In addition to the PBS World Event, local PBS stations will continue airing Breaking Through the Clouds throughout the year. Some upcoming airings include Indianapolis’ KFYI, Sunday, Feb. 21st at 2pm, San Antonio’s KLRN March 3rd at 9pm and Wichita’s KPTS on March 17th at 7pm.

The documentary is proving a popular choice with audiences as nearly a thousand airings have been scheduled, covering nearly 75% of the United States, in more than 70 million homes, including nearly all the top ten markets.

The other big news is Breaking Through The Clouds is now available via Video on Demand (VOD).

Here’s the link: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/breakingthroughtheclouds?

An extended version of the film, with bonus materials, is still available on DVD at the website: BreakingThroughTheClouds.com

Thanks to everyone who has supported getting the film to this point! For those who have seen the film, you know the first frame begins with the following words from Emily Dickinson.

We never know how high we are
Til we are called to rise
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies
May you each touch blue skies in your own journey.

Breaking Through the Clouds is the inspiring true story of twenty women who raced across America in the First Women’s National Air Derby. Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, Louise Thaden, and Bobbi Trout are just a few of the courageous women who competed in this historical race from California to Ohio in the summer of 1929. With just a compass and a road map to guide them, they navigated through cultural stereotypes, mechanical failures, threats of sabotage, emergency landings, and endless chicken dinners. Their story is inspiring for anyone seeking the courage to follow their own dreams.

*If you are a member of the press and want more information or images, please email Heather@breakingthroughtheclouds.com


Inspiration & Anniversary Airings on PBS Affiliate Stations

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.

For those wishing to see the award winning documentary Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby (BTTC) this summer, there is an excellent chance of it airing on a PBS station near you. So far the documentary has aired over 200 times, covering 30 states in the U.S. (and the District of Columbia) with more airdates scheduled for July and August.

This Sunday, the film will air in Salt Lake City, Utah, Carbondale, Illinois, Terre Haute, Indiana, and the Harrisonburg/Front Royal, Virginia areas. Over the next few weeks, nearly 100 more airings of BTTC are scheduled as the 86th anniversary of the women’s derby approaches. You can see a full listing of air dates and locations on the Breaking Through the Clouds website. http://breakingthroughtheclouds.homestead.com/PBS-AIrings.html

Please note new dates and locations are being added daily so keep checking! I also update Facebook and Twitter.

I always enjoy hearing feedback or stories prompted after seeing the film! Sometimes when I meet a person after they have seen the film (or receive an email), I learn of someone inspiring who has touched their life. Often these inspiring people don’t receive much fan fare, yet have contributed much to the world in a positive way. For example, I met a daughter who brought her 94 year old mother, a former pilot to a screening. A husband also emailed me pictures of his wife proudly discussing her career as a captain for a major airline.

Sometimes I hear how BTTC has helped open up a connection to someone such as a father who sent me an email telling me how his daughter’s hero is now Louise Thaden or the grandmother who watched the film with her grandson and the result was an opening up of a conversation that connected the two of them, creating a special moment. I’ve met many people who tell me about how their mother or grandmother once flew; sometimes for fun, sometimes as a career and others who hope to inspire their children to follow what they love and see the women in the derby as role models.

In a world that is often filled with bad news, negativity and obstacles, I love hearing the good people have done and continue to do in the world and how this good continues on in the generations. The fact that 20 women who flew an air race 86 years ago continues to inspire people today is a testament to how powerful following one’s passion can be.

I hope to continue hearing such good news stories as a result of seeing BTTC and that in some way, the women of the derby can help give you the courage to “break through the clouds” in your own way.

Until next time, Blue Skies & Tailwinds.

Heather Taylor,

Archetypal Images, LLC., BreakingThroughTheClouds.com


Retracing Steps of the Women in the 1929 Derby while Traveling in California

I recently spent a week in California screening and giving presentations related to my documentary Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby (BTTC). As I was doing so, I realized I was also retracing some of the women’s steps and following yet another piece of their legacy.

I began my trip in Oakland, California, the same place where (derby contestant) Louise Thaden began her flying career. Louise spent two years in the area working for a distributor of Walter Beach’s airplanes while learning to fly, obtaining her private and transport license, and establishing several world records. Using clips from BTTC, I gave a presentation at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos and talked about some of the women in the derby. It was a powerful experience to speak there as the airplane Louise flew setting the solo endurance record was hanging just around the corner. In addition, the plane Louise’s husband, Herb, designed was hanging directly above me during my talk. A member of the Museum staff also brought up derby contestant Bobbi Trout’s name. Bobbi used to visit the museum, driving up in her red Porsche (even in her nineties), to share her adventures as a pilot.

Producer Heather Taylor underneath Travel Air Plane Louise Thaden set endurance record in Oakland, Ca

Producer Heather Taylor underneath Louise Thaden’s Travel Air Plane  used to set a solo endurance record.

Later that day, I traveled to Merced, California and spoke to engineering students at the University. The local chapter of AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) joined forces with other student organizations to sponsor my talk. Their purpose was to encourage more women to join the engineering program as well as support the few young women who were already enrolled in engineering. This was spearheaded in large part by several of the young men on campus wanting to see more equality emerge! I cannot say enough good things about my experience with this group of students. They were prepared when I arrived, very tech savvy, polite, enthusiastic, and engaged with the material presented. I enjoyed talking to them about their studies, interests, dreams and aspirations. It was truly exciting to see how this younger generation was inspired by the women’s achievements and how they want to continue building upon the success of the women flying in 1929.

On Monday, April 27th, I flew to San Diego, California and immediately went to pay my respects to Marvel Crosson at her final resting place. Marvel was one of the most experienced pilots in the 1929 derby which makes her crash and death all the more tragic. Marvel’s crypt has a beautiful wing decoration in the center, the only one I saw in the entire place.

Marvel Crosson's Final Wings

Marvel Crosson’s Final Wings

By happenstance the day I visited Marvel, April 27th was her birthday. Making the moment even more powerful was visiting the site with a couple who learned of Marvel’s story and ended up naming their daughter Marvel. Both parents are pilots and say the two-year old Marvel loves to fly.

Joe Crosson Drive

Joe Crosson Drive

While in San Diego, I drove on Joe Crosson Drive, named for Marvel’s brother, Joe, who was a famous pilot in his own right.

I spent several days in San Diego continuing my research regarding the women from the derby. At least two more people mentioned Bobbi Trout driving her red Porsche around in that area. Whether by plane or car, Bobbi sure got around in style!

I was honored to meet an 86-year-old retired pilot (and Quiet Birdman or QB) who knew Pancho Barnes. He had been to her Happy Bottom Riding Club Bar and said that while Pancho’s reputation preceded her in regards to her language and antics, she truly was a great pilot. He emphasized that Pancho really understood the challenges the test pilots of the supersonic age were going through and was able to talk to them in a language they understood.

When I spent a couple of hours in Long Beach, I passed by the impressive airport and thought of the legacy Gladys O’Donnell created there as a representative of Long Beach in the derby.

Version 2 (1)

                  Santa Monica Airport

Later in the week, I walked on the grounds of the Santa Monica airport. This is where the women began their journey for the first Women’s National Air Derby. As I stood there, I imagined what it was like eighty-six years earlier on that hot August day. I imagined the celebrities talking to the pilots while the general public swarmed to catch sight of a recognizable face. I could almost feel the carnival atmosphere with the music playing, popcorn being sold, kids climbing on the airplanes, and the excitement as the time neared to line up the planes and take off. I could hear echoes of radial engines starting up and the giggling of pilots Ruth Elder, Blanche Noyes, and Bobbi Trout as they looked at the trophies they were vying for. I could imagine the buzz of conversation between Louise, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, Phoebe Omlie, Pancho Barnes and all the other women as they planned for their grand adventure. I looked down the runway and wondered at the sight of twenty women lifting those biplanes and cabin planes into the air, establishing their legacy as pioneers in aviation.

Tony Bill, director/actor/producer.

Tony Bill, director/actor/producer.

While at the airport, I had my own celebrity run in! I was so excited to meet actor, producer, director Tony Bill who had seen my film and was incredibly complimentary, generous, encourage and kind. His words touched and inspired me.

That night I screened BTTC at the Santa Monica library to an incredibly receptive and very interesting audiences. There were at least three academy award winners in attendance, including one of the editors of the Right Stuff (which featured Pancho Barnes in her bar)! Lou D’Elia, interviewed in BTTC, was also at the screening as were many pilots (male and female), proponents of the Santa Monica Airport, as well as a variety of independent artists. There was such a feeling of camaraderie and mutual admiration in that room that I was inspired by the audience members as much as they were inspired by the women of the derby.

My respect for the women who flew in the 1929 National Women’s Air Derby continues to grow as I learn new pieces of their history and meet inspiring people today due to these pioneering women following a passion and breaking through the clouds.

Written by Heather Taylor, producer/director/writer of the award-winning documentary, Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby

Breaking Through the Clouds: From Grass-Roots to Nation Wide

I never knew for sure if this day would get here. The day when I could say a film I worked so hard to create and produce about legendary and inspiring pioneers would finally be “on air.” In many ways, it’s a miracle that my film, Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby (BTTC) ever happened. I have had more obstacles than a golfer on a course designed by gophers.

Some of my obstacles included leaving my job at Discovery only to have the biggest financial meltdown since the depression happen immediately afterwards, contacting derby contestant Bobbi Trout after she had just entered the hospital, days before she passed away, my cameraman landing in the emergency room right before the aerial recreation shoot, dealing with the snow blizzard of the century when trying to get to the post production house, having power go out on the final day of off-line editing, severe flooding in Nashville where the composer of the film was working to get the final music to me and much more. In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg of obstacles I have had and continue to face in regards to the film.

One of the hardest parts of the whole process, however, was finding the people who shared my vision for the film, understood the importance of the women’s air race and what it represents. For example, I had one editor who insisted that aviation legend Elinor Smith Sullivan should be cut from the film because nobody talks the way she does anymore. I cut the editor instead.

Elinor Sullivan Smith in her last on-camera interview. Filmed for Breaking Through the Clouds

Elinor Sullivan Smith in her last on-camera interview. Filmed for Breaking Through the Clouds

Through all of turmoil, however, I ended up finding all the right people to help bring this story forward. Nearly everyone who has been involved with BTTC has become an important part of my community from family members of the derby contestants, to creative artists, excellent pilots and people of integrity who believe in the message behind the derby.

What these obstacles helped to clarify for me is that the derby was and continues to be about community, relationship, and the human spirit. There is no doubt this film has only made it as far as it has because of the grass-roots support from individuals much like the race in 1929 happened in large part because of the contributions of fans across the county.

My community has now extended to viewers across the country as well as BTTC began airing on PBS stations nationwide in March of this year (2015). So far BTTC has aired in 20 states with nearly 100 broadcast. New dates, stations and times are being added daily including one in Washington DC this weekend (dates for this week listed below and also posted on the website: http://breakingthroughtheclouds.homestead.com/PBS-AIrings.html).

I have received some lovely letters and emails from this expanded community with viewers letting me know how inspired they are by the women’s story. I’ve listed some of those comments below as well.

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me from the very beginning, to those who are just tuning in and others who have walked beside me in this journey. I think the women of the derby might be pleased to know that following their passion to fly in an air race over eight decades ago is still inspiring people today and helping build community “from the ground UP to the skies.”

Heather Taylor

Pilots who helped in the aerial recreations in Breaking Through the Clouds.

Pilots who are part of the aviation community that helped in the aerial recreations for Breaking Through the Clouds along with producer Heather Taylor


The BTTC website, Facebook page and twitter account are updated frequently with air dates and listings. Listed here are some of the upcoming broadcasts:

APRIL 13th, 2015 (Monday), 11pm

Kentucky, WKYU, Bowling Green area

APRIL 17th, 2015 (Friday), 11pm                                                 

New York City, Connecticut Area, Rhode Island including: Fairfield, CT: WEDWDT3; Hartford, CT WEDHDT3; New Haven, CT: WEDYDT3, Providence/New Bedford/Norwich CT: WEDNDT3

APRIL 18th (Saturday), 11am

Washington DC, WHUT and WHUTDT2

April 18th (Saturday) 9pm

Minneapolis: St Paul and Brainerd, MN: KAWB, KAWE

APRIL 19th (Sunday), 9pm

Minneapolis: St Paul, Brainerd MN, KAWBDT5 & KAWEDT5

April 22 (Wednesday) 9:30pm         

New York/Fairfield, CT., WEDWDT3; Hartford, CT: WEDHDT3, New Haven, CT: WEDYDT3; Providence/New Bedford/Norwich, CT: WEDNDT3

April 26th (Sunday), 10pm

New York/Fairfield, CT: WEDWDT3; Hartford, CT: WEDHDT3; New Haven, CT: WEDYDT3; Providence/New Bedford/Norwich, CT: WEDNDT3

NOTE: An extended version of Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby is available through this website: http://breakingthroughtheclouds.com/noframes.asp?f=DVDs_Testimonials.html



 I finally got a chance to watch your film Breaking Through The Clouds and WE LOVED IT! I watched it with my 11-year-old daughter and my mother. I am so glad you included so much detail and in-depth interviews, etc.  Makes it so interesting. I am an aviation nerd and I learned a lot from the show.  I did not know a great deal about that era nor about several of those individual pilots. We really enjoyed it and liked how you took each one and explained their lives and brought them to life.

 Those women are so admirable and daring.  And they looked like they just LOVED to fly, that’s what makes it so neat. You did a brilliant job. My daughter’s “heroes” are mostly celebs, well except for Hope Solo. Now she really thinks Louis Thaden and Ruth Elder are cool.  Thanks for that.


I watched Breaking Through the Clouds and LOVED every minute of it!  To witness these women being so courageous and gutsy made me reflect and say to myself “What can I pioneer, what new ground I break for not just women but for humanity?”  It really got me thinking and I’ve recommended it to several of my friends. Very inspirational…thank you, thank you for telling their stories and keeping this part of our history alive!


I was blown away by your film. I could never have imagined that someone could recreate an event 85 years old and make it seem like just yesterday. … Your hard work has preserved these beautiful, talented and brave women for all history, and now they shall not be forgotten.


Well I usually am not the most interested person when it comes to historical films. But with this, I was not at all bored. In fact, I couldn’t wait to hear about what the next day would bring and who would eventually win. The back and forth between the old footage, new images, and the people interviewed was what kept such interest! Very nice work!


Breaking Through the Clouds

Thanks to @womanaviators for this lovely blog on my film, Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby.

Woman Aviators

The First Women’s National Air Derby! What a wonderful documentary video of this exciting breakthrough aviation event.  From the opening music, “Blue Skies Smiling at Me”, to the ending line up of each of the participating lovely lady pilots this video is pure pleasure.

This is truly an inspiring story of the 20 women who raced airplanes across America in 1929.  At a time when women had recently received the right to vote (1920) and the most common job for a woman was being a waitress, working on the farm or being a school teacher, these women climbed into their cockpits and adjusted their goggles for nine amazing and often grueling days flying from Santa Monica, CA to Cleveland, OH.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 9.29.12 PM Louise Thaden, Gladys O’Donnell and Ruth Nichols http://www.thaden.org

Very good original footage of interviews with Louise Thaden (holder of the woman’s altitude record of 20,260 feet in 1928), Ruth Elder…

View original post 358 more words

On Purpose Women & Breaking Through the Clouds

An article I wrote for On Purpose Woman Magazine was just published. In it, I focus on how the women of the First Women’s National Air Derby (featured in Breaking Through the Clouds) model following one’s passion. As I state in the article, if you know what energizes you, share that with others. Your enthusiasm is contagious. For those of us still searching, role models, especially outside of the mainstream, are essential. There is no question that the women of the derby including Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, Pancho Barnes, Bobbi Trout, Phoebe Omlie and the rest of the contestants were On Purpose Women and Broke Through the Clouds.

Here’s a link to the PDF of the magazine

3-15 Cover

Blue Skies,

Heather Taylor

Producer of the award winning documentary Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby.

Now Available on PBS Stations across the United States. An extended version of the film is available on BreakingThroughTheClouds.com


 In my last post, I published a picture of me with the last astronaut to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan (scroll down to last blog entry to see this picture). This was taken at the NBAA Conference in Las Vegas when Cernan and other aviation legends of today presented me with the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s Combs Gates Award.*  The honor still ranks up there as one of the proudest moments in my careers.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had witnessed Cernan’s launch into space!

I remembered going to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a child and watching a rocket launch into space but I did not remember any of the details. Recently I was sorting through some family memorabilia and stumbled across souvenirs from the event. It was the Apollo 17 launch. I found a picture of the three astronauts who flew this mission. They were Harrison Schmitt, Ron Evans and Gene Cernan! Now that caught my attention.


Astronauts Harrison Schmitt, Ron Evans, and Gene Cernan

It’s funny how history works. We can cross paths and never even know it years later. Similarly, we can influence or be influenced by someone in ways unimaginable to us at the here and now.

A case in point is Phoebe Omlie, one of the women in the 1929 women’s national air derby. She taught a young woman, Dorothy Swain Lewis to become a flight instructor. Mrs. Lewis went on to fly in World War II (known as a WASP). I was fortunate to meet Mrs. Lewis and ask her about Phoebe. She said everyone admired her. She also said Phoebe was adamant about women becoming flight instructors.  One quip Mrs. Lewis said Phoebe used to make was, “we taught them to walk, we can teach them to fly.”No question the women of the derby paved the way for the next generation, including the WASPS, who in turn, have inspired many women flying in today’s military; an example of how history becomes relevant to the present.

The surviving WASPS, by the way, are not just sitting on their laurels and reliving old stories. Their latest ride to adventure is to be in next year’s Rose Bowl Parade. They are currently trying to raise $50,000 to obtain this goal. If you would like to help, you can learn more by visiting their website at: http://www.fifinella.com/roseparade.htm (they are also on Facebook).

I can’t help but reflect on how my father shared his passion for aviation with his children by taking us to events such as the Apollo 17 launch and what an impression that made. Maybe one of you will take your children to the Rose Bowl Parade next year to see the amazing women pilots from WW11 float by and influence the next generation in ways never imagined. Just like an astronaut named Eugene Cernan and a certain filmmaker decades later, you never know when, where or how paths may cross again.

*The award was for my film, Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby.

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