Today about 500 women worldwide can proudly admit to being airline captains. Nevertheless, one of 5,623 women that we randomly meet in a street might be a female pilot. It seems that everyone can pursue their dream of becoming a pilot despite their gender; however, the history of women who sacrificed their lives or gave up everything to become airline professionals highlights that a path for women to enter aviation world was not that easy.
There was a time when women had to fight for their rights to get involved into aviation issues, but afterwards they proved that a lady can be as good as a male pilot if she believes in herself. It is not that surprising to hear a female pilot introducing herself as a pilot of an aircraft anymore, but just imagine how odd it seemed twenty years ago. Let’s take a look at the women that left significant marks in female piloting…
The history of Female Piloting began with Madame Therese Peltier in 1908 as she was the first woman to fly an airplane solo.
Raymonde de la Roche
“Flying is the best possible thing for women”– said Raymonde de la Roche who became the first woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license in 1910, France.
However, everything was different in the United States back then. A great number of women were willing to get involved in aviation, but such prominent men as Wright Brothers refused women the right to fly.
Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1911, was annoyed by the attitude of the doubt by the spectators. After she got her license she said: “This attitude made me more determined than ever to succeed”.
Her persistent personality helped her to become the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel in 1912. However, it was hardly reported because of the tragedy of the Titanic the night earlier.
Amelia Earhart is one of the most famous female pilots in aviation history. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean! For this achievement, she received the US Distinguished Flying Cross and started working as a counselor for women who wanted to start their career in aviation. Unfortunately, she mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting a circumnavigation flight of the globe in 1937.
Despite all the credits that women accrued in the aviation field, female aviators were a novelty. No matter how hard they tried, the press still called them ‘Flying Flappers’, ‘Angels’ or ‘Sweethearts of the Air’.
Things got better in 1936 when the first female flight club was established. An idea of a woman in aviation was not that bad after all – in 1943 women accounted for more than 30 % of the workforce in the Aviation industry.
When Rosella Bjornson was 17 years old, she gained her Private Pilot’s License in just 2 months. Trans-Air hired her as the first and only female in the field of 2,800 pilots in 1973.
She set an example for other commercial airlines because they began hiring women as well.
In 1990 she became the first woman to be promoted to Captain with a major Canadian air carrier. She is a member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.
Polly VaCher was the first woman to fly around the world. In 2001 she flew solo around the world in a record-breaking small plane!
We are glad that these women made successful attempts to destroy the stereotypes and we believed that the struggle was worth all of the efforts made. Today we can finally see the results of the increasing numbers of women in the aviation and aerospace industries.