On the 18th February 1930, Nellie Jay – better known as Elm Farm Ollie – became the first cow to fly in an aeroplane. Featured as part of the International Air Exposition in St. Louis, not only did Ollie fly in an aeroplane but she was also milked during the flight.

Elm Farm Ollie was born and raised at Sunnymede Farms in Bismarck, Missouri and was chosen to fly to the International Air Exposition due to her unusually high milk production and calm temperament. The 72 mile journey was flown in a Ford Trimotor aircraft piloted, according to a contemporary newspaper clipping, by Claude M. Sterling. He was an instructor at St. Louis’ Parks Air College, the first federally certified flying school in America.

Due to the flight time and Ollie’s high production, she required milking during the flight. She gave a total of 24 quarts (23 litres) of milk during the flight, which was then packed into paper cartons and dropped by parachute to the crowds at the airshow. Wisconsin native Elsworth W. Bunce was the man who milked her, making him the first person to milk a cow in flight. Among the rumoured recipients of the mid-flight milk was aircraft pioneer and St. Louis resident Charles Lindbergh who had made the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris less than three years previously.

The flight itself was billed as part of a scientific study of the effects of flying on livestock and to demonstrate aircraft stability. In reality it was more of a publicity stunt, but made a celebrity of Ollie who was given the nickname ‘Sky Queen’.

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