The parents of Léna Bernstein are of origin Russian, they emigrated in Germany, then in France.
Léna obtains its pilot's license at the civil school of Aulnat, close to Clermont-Ferrand, under the protection of the aces of 14-18 Gilbert Sardier and Louis Chartoire. It “goes up” to Paris with the intention to beat records. It flies on a Potez VIII, then secures the loan of the Caudron C-109 n° 2 of Maurice Finat, ace of the stunt-flying.
First record of distance in straight line
In 1929, it tries the record of distance in straight line, while crossing the Mediterranean. The authorities only authorize it to try its test towards the north, which is impossible for him because its small apparatus, overloaded of fuel, will spend time to reach a sufficient altitude: its only solution is to make pretense of obtempérer, but to leave towards the south and to fly over the Mediterranean.
Le first test stops above the Mediterranean: shaken by a violent mistral, the aviatrice must be solved to empty its fuel and to make half-turn. Asphyxiated by the gasoline fumes, it loses consciousness but it succeeds in posing its plane at the last minute. It sets out again the following day, under better conditions. Above Corsica, she realizes that its tank is almost empty: the tap of the open “fuel dump valve” the day before, was badly closed again. It must be posed urgently on the Italian aerodrome of Pisa, then under the command of the air force of Mussolini. One reproaches him for not having not an authorization of overflight of Italy and the plane is confiscated. The following day, with the pretext of show with a mechanic engineering problems, Léna settles with the orders and succeeds in taking off, giving up on the spot its flight suit, its helmet, its charts… Finally with its third attempt, it crosses of a blow of wing, Istres in Sidi-el-Barani, in Egypt, the distance of 2268 km.
Record of duration in closed circuit
In 1930, it attacks the record of duration which Maryse Bastié holds (26. 47). On May 1st, th and 2nd, it flies during 35. 45, beating the record of duration of pilot alone on board held until there by Lindbergh. Maryse Bastié will take again this record in September to him, on a more powerful apparatus.
In 1931, Léna Bernstein tries a raid on Saigon which stops by an emergency landing in India. It must fight to obtain a new plane, succeeds in having a plane Farman to take again its project of raid. But the fuel small apparatus, overloaded, is reversed by a gust of wind during a takeoff of night, on a track in repair with Istres. Léna Bernstein, seriously wounded, is transported in a hospital of Marseilles. A Marseilles industrialist provides him a new apparatus. Still badly given, Léna leaves the hospital without paying the soins.
It obtains French nationality in 1932. Prohibited flight by the administration, continued by the ushers, it succeeds in in June rejoining Algiers, then the aerodrome of Biskra, where small Farman is reversed by a storm. The damage is tiny. The aviatrice is accommodated by many friends: the mayor of Biskra and his wife, the general of Jonchay, colonel Pierre Weiss, Lucien Schmidt, president of the Committee of Aviation of Tourism of Biskra… But it is exhausted, physically and morally. June 3rd, it is made lead in the taxi in the desert, then returns the driver. One will find his body later two days, near a bottle of champagne and of a tube of empty drugs. Commits suicide or accident? Léna Bernstein is buried with the cemetery of Biskra.
- Pierre Jarrige, light Aviation in Algeria (1909-1939), Revel, 1992, ISBN 2-9506620-0-5>
- Roland Tessier, Women of the Air , Corréa, sd.
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