Gone are the days when the aviation industry was predominantly for men. For a long time, women were not allowed to take up positions in the aviation world. The female gender was regarded as too weak to fly a plane. Against all the odds, confident women like Amy Johnson who were determined to pursue their dreams of flying a plane broke the mold and made their goals a reality. This article is written in remembrance of Amy Johnson, whose birthday is on the 1st of July 1903, and other pioneering women of aviation.
Born on January 1st, 1903, Amy Johnson was the first female to fly from England to Australia and from England to Capetown. The Yorkshire born lady was working in London as a secretary and started flying airplanes as her hobby. She got her license in 1929 and became the first woman in history to be given a ground engineer’s “C” license. During World War 2, Amy joined and rose to the rank of the first officer of the Air Transport Auxillary. She died in 1941 as a result of friendly fire after giving the wrong call to the British Military.
Baroness Raymonde de Laroche
Baroness Raymonde de Laroche was born August 22, 1882, in the city of Paris, France. She was the daughter of a plumber.
She rewrote history in 1909 when she became the first woman to receive a pilot’s license.
She left acting to study more about flying an aircraft, training under aviation expert Charles Voisin in 1909 and earned herself the title of baroness. In 1910, she was grounded for two years when her plane crashed at an air show in Reims, France. She also served as a military chauffeur during World War I. She died at the age of 36 on her quest to become the first female pilot when her experimental aircraft crashed in Le Crotoy.
A statue was erected to honor her at Paris Le Bourget Airport.
Amelia Earhart was a Kansas born aviator Pioneer born on July 24, 1897. In May 1932, she became the first lady to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Because of this feat, she was awarded the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross. She was also known for many record-breaking flights. Earhart was the first woman to fly from Los Angeles to Newark in 1932. She was also the first Pilot to fly from US mainland to Hawaii as well as the first person to fly from Los Angeles to Mexico in 1935. Amelia was also a prolific writer, as she wrote many bestselling books that talked about her experiences in the air. She had an immense part in the creation of Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. She disappeared mysteriously over the Pacific Ocean during an attempt to fly around the globe on July 2, 1937.
In 1941, Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean. She was born May 11, 1906, in Florida. Jacqueline Cochran was known as the speed queen as she held more speed, altitude and distance records than any other pilot before her death in 1989. During her time alive, she was the only woman that competed in the 1937 Bendix race, the best female pilot as at 1938, the first woman to break the sound barrier, the first pilot to make a blind landing and the first female president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (1958-1961). Asides are flying; she was also a successful businesswoman and a politician.
Bessie Coleman was born in Texas on the 26th of January 1892. At a time when racial and gender discrimination was on a high, Bessie Coleman became the first African American and the first Native American to have a pilot’s license in 1921 in the USA. She was not able to attend flight schools in the US because of her race and gender. She then relocated to France where she would be able to enroll in an aviation school. On returning to Chicago, she could not get a Job as a Pilot. She decided to work as a stunt pilot doing acrobatic tricks for crowds. This earned her the nickname “Queen Bessie.” She died during a plane crash in 1921 at the age of 34. She is remembered today as the woman who paved the way for black women in the aviation industry.
Peggy Whitson is a retired NASA astronaut. Born on February 9, 1960, in Mount Ayr, Iowa USA, Peggy has broken several records. She was the first woman to become commander of the International Space Station (ISS). In 2017, she became the oldest woman to walk in space at the age of 57. Peggy also holds the women’s record of the longest time spent in space with a staggering 53 hours and 22 minutes. On April 2017, Peggy beat the previous record (534) of most cumulative time spent in space by an American astronaut having spent a total of 665 days in space. She is NASA’s most experienced astronaut to date.
Just like Bessie Coleman, Willa Brown was known for her fights for racial equality both on land and in the air. Willa Brown was born in Kentucky on January 22, 1906. She was the first African American women to earn a pilot’s license and a commercial license. She built a school of Aeronautics with her husband, Cornelius Coffey. This school later became the first government-approved aviation training school for African Americans. She and her husband were also responsible for the formation of National Airmen Association of America (NAAA) which pushed for the integration of black pilots into the U.S Army. She became the first black woman of the Civil Air Patrol in 1942. Willa Brown also ran for Congress three times before she retired in 1971. She died in 1992.
Emily Howell Warner
Emily Warner became the first female pilot to be hired by a US commercial airline, Frontiers Airline in 1973. She initially wanted to be a flight attendant, but the sight of a cockpit won her heart. She was born October 30, 1939, in Colorado. Emily is also the first woman to be made a Captain of a US airline. She was the first female member of Air Line Pilots Association in 1974. In 2001, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Sabiha Gokcen was born 22 March 1922. Sabiha became the first woman in Turkey to earn a pilot license and the first female fighter pilot in the world. She was trained on flying combat missions in Russia. In 1937, she flew bombers and fighter planes for First Aircraft Regiment in Eskisehir. She was appointed as senior instructor of the Turk Kusu Aviation School in 1938. She died in 2001. Her pilot career saw her fly over 8000 hours, out of which 32 hours were combat missions. The Sabiha Gokcen Airport was built in memory of her.
Harriet Quimby was the first woman in the United States to gain a pilot license. Even though she had a short flying career, she was also the first woman to cross the English Channel. She was born 11 May 1875 in Michigan. She flew a 50 HP monoplane from Dover, England to Hardelot-Plage, Pas-de-Calais. She was also a journalist and screenwriter. She was a source of inspiration to other women in aviation. She died on July 1, 1912, when her plane crashed while she was flying during an airshow in Massachusetts.