Influential Female Commercial Pilots Throughout History

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Everyone knows the name of the pilots responsible for the world’s first recorded flight in 1903. After the Wright brothers broke new ground, people from all walks of life were motivated, inspired and stirred to contribute to the emerging field of aviation.

Our job today is to even the record and remember some of the Great Women of aviation history, because like Bessie Coleman said:

‘The air is the only place free from prejudices’

Amelia Earhart (1897-1939)

Possibly the most famous pilot of the era behind the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart spent her adult life breaking boundaries for aviation and for women’s rights everywhere.

After breaking the flight ceiling for female pilots of 14,000 feet in 1922, other achievements include being the first pilot to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, and being the first female (and second pilot) to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo.

We remember Amelia Earhart not only for her records, but for her work in ensuring the skies remain a place for all people with the establishment of the Ninety Nines. Amelia Earhart was the founder, and first president of the Ninety Nines, who remain an organisation dedicated to representation and development of women pilots from 44 countries across the world.

Harriet Quimby (1875-1912)

Long before Amelia Earhart took to the skies, Harriet Quimby was shaking up the aviation world. A successful travel journalist, Harriet Quimby was exposed to the world of flying at the New York Belmont Air Meet in 1910 and by August 1st, 1911, Quimby was awarded the first pilots licence to an American woman.

She quickly became a media sensation, encouraging other young women to join the ranks of aviation with travel journals and articles she wrote about her experiences with recreational flying and by winning cross-country races. She was the first woman to conduct a night time flight and was a contributing voice to the pre-flight safety checks that are now standard procedure today.

Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (1892-1926)

A paragon for equality, Bessie Coleman represented the tenacity, determination and brilliance of early female pilots in a time of racial and gender marginalisation. Bessie Coleman was the first woman of African American and Native American descent to be awarded a pilot licence.

In a time where both women and people of colour were excluded from American pilot training, Bessie Coleman pushed through these barriers by learning French and relocating to Europe for her pilot’s training. Earning her licence on June 15, 1921, Bessie Coleman returned to the U.S. challenging the status quo by gaining fame as a stunt pilot, and using her influence to allow equal patronage for all spectators of her air shows.

Bessie Coleman is celebrated not just for challenging the male-dominated world of aviation, but for being an early, leading voice in the conversation for racial and gender equality in the U.S.A.

These women shook the world of flying by proving that the early years of aviation did not belong to the male gender, and they were not alone. If you have ever dreamt of flying, why not start now? Be it towards commercial flying, flying as a hobby or if you are curious about Trial flight, give us a call at Bunbury Flying School today and organise one of our instructors take you out on your first flight in a long, successful flying career.

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