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Women in Aviation: 4 Female Captains Who Left Their Mark in the Industry

Updated on May 7, 2019
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Aviation - a former man-only industry:

Even though we might disagree on whether this issue still prevails or the extent to which it can be considered severe, we can all agree that, for the better part of mankind history, women have been enduring inequalities and prejudices in many shapes and forms, some of which have been very subtle while others were clear like blue sky.


This had been specially evident in the obstacles the women needed to deal with to get a job, even more when the work field is known to be dangerous or if it requires above-average intellectual skills, self-composure, and bravery; however, at several points in history, many women made resounding achievements and succeeded in leaving their unique mark in the history of the industry. Among all the work fields, aviation certainly comes near the top of this list.


Here is an attempt to pay a well-earned tribute to remarkable female captain pilots who have made it to the sky and beyond:


1- Baroness Raymonde de Laroche - the first certified female aviator:

Raymonde de Laroche
Raymonde de Laroche | Source

It is impossible to talk about the women who changed the aviation industry without mentioning Baroness Raymonde de Laroche.


As the first woman in history to earn a pilot certificate, de Laroche started off her career as an actress; however, her passion and inspiration for becoming a pilot was ignited when she attended the demo flights made by Wilbur Wright in Paris.


She was taught by Charles Voisin, one of the earliest industry pioneers who was a personal friend of hers. Her first solo experience with aviation came in October 1909 when she visited the Voisin brothers’ base; as the airplanes there could only fit one person, Charles Voisin gave her remote instructions from the ground while she operated the plane solo and succeeded in flying it for 300 yards.


2- Amelia Earhart - first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean:

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart | Source

If you are passionate about aviation and you have read about aviation history before, then this name must have been the first thing that came to your mind when you started reading this article.


Famous for being the first female aviator in history to fly across both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans solo, Amelia Earhart was a pioneer of the industry for many other reasons and achievements as well. Earhart was awarded the United States Distinguished Flying Cross for being the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She is considered one of founding members and the cornerstones of the International Organization of Women Pilots (also known as the Ninety-Nines)


Earhart was also the first aviator to fly solo on several routes including flights from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California, from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to New York.


In addition to her professional achievements and accolades, Amelia Earhart was equally successful on the academic end of the industry. In addition to being the author of multiple best-sellers, she was also a visiting faculty member as an advisor to aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and a member of National Woman’s Party.


Her disappearance:

On June 1, 1937, Amelia Earhart, along with navigator Fred Noonan, started a circumnavigational flight around the globe that funded by Purdue University in a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra from Miami, Florida.

After completing 22,000 miles of the 29,000-mile long flight, and on July 2, Earhart and Noonan departed from Lae Airfield in a flight headed to Howland Island before it disappeared midway, the last reported position of the plane was near the Nukumanu Islands.

Up till now, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart remains an unresolved mystery and a source of fascination that still remains strong till this day.


3- Lotfia Al Nadi - the first arab woman pilot:

Lotfia Elnadi
Lotfia Elnadi | Source

Considered a role model for many aspiring young female pilots, Captain Lotfia Al Nadi was the first woman to earn a pilot license in Egypt, Africa, and the Arab World. Al Nadi had shown a strong passion for aviation since a young age, long before Cairo International Airport even launched its operation.


After finishing primary school, Lotfia Al Nadi joined an aviation school in Cairo which had just opened back then. Al Nadi demonstrated her strong-willed personality ever since her first day in the school; not only was she the only female student in the class, but also, since she couldn’t afford to pay the needed fees to join the school, she worked as the telephone operator for the school to be able to earn the money needed. She earned her license after 67 days.


Even though Al Nadi’s career spanned five years only before she suffered a spine injury that forced her to retire early, she managed to set herself as one of the pioneers of the industry. Her life achievements include being the second woman in history to participate in an international race after Amelia Earhart. Not only that, but she also finished the race in the first place.

4- Willa Brown - the first African American female pilot in the United States:

Willa Brown
Willa Brown | Source

Born on January 22, 1906, Willa Brown is an exceptional figure in the history aviation; this is not only because of how she had to overcome the obstacle of gender inequality, but also that of racial inequality as well.


Brown’s achievements did not stop at becoming the first African American woman to earn a pilot certificate in the United States and the second African American woman to become a pilot in general - preceded by Bessie Coleman; she was also the first African American to run for the United States Congress, and the first woman ever in the states to earn both a pilot certificate and a mechanic certificate.


Willa Brown was also the co-founder of Cornelius Coffey School of Aeronautics, the first private aviation school in history to be owned and managed by African Americans, where she successfully trained several patches of pilots.

These are only 4 of the many prominent female figures who helped in shaping the aviation industry as we know it today and became aspiring role models for the following generations.

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