Even if you are not that familiar with aviation, the name Amelia Earhart has become almost a household name. While her accomplishments are to be noted, there are many more female aviators out there that have been pioneers in aviation and shattered their glass ceilings to soar on to the clouds (literally).
In honor of Women’s History Month and Women of Aviation Week, we’re highlighting Seven Famous Female Aviators who made a difference in the industry.
- Geraldine Mock
In 1964, Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock became the first woman to fly solo around the world, earning the FAA award from President Lyndon B. Johnson. Another pilot, Joan Merriam Smith, set out with the same goal only two days before her, but Mock completed the flight first, securing her spot in history. She went on to set the record for longest nonstop flight by a woman in 1966, when she flew from Honolulu to Columbus. Mock was also one of the first women to study aeronautical engineering at Ohio State University.
- Willa Brown
The first African American woman to earn both a pilot’s license and a commercial license, Brown went on to establish the Coffey School of Aeronautics at Chicago’s Harlem Airport alongside her husband. This institution later became the first government-approved aviation training school for African Americans. The couple also formed the National Airmen Association of North America, with a focus on integrating Black pilots into the U.S. military.
- Jacqueline Cochran
Nicknamed the “Speed Queen”, Jacqueline Cochran set more distance and speed records in her lifetime than any other pilots male or female. Her list of firsts is extensive, including being the first American woman to break the sound barrier and the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier; however, she is most known for her creation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. She was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean. Astonishingly, she received her pilot’s license after only three weeks of instruction and went on to make such an impact on aviation.
- Eileen Collins
From the early 1990s to 2006, Eileen Collins spent her time at the Kennedy Space Center, becoming the first female astronaut to serve as pilot of the Space Shuttle during STS-63. Four years later she graduated to become the first ever female commander of a shuttle mission during STS-93. When she retired, Collins had logged a total of 872 hours in space during her four flights.
- Katherine Stinson
In 1912, Katherine Stinson became the first woman in the United States to receive a pilot’s license. She was only 19 years old. She rose to fame through her exhibition flights across the country, and in 1915 she became the first woman to perform a loop and execute a snap roll at the top of the loop. In 1917 she set a record for a 9-hour 10-minute nonstop flight from San Diego to San Francisco, and in 1918 she became the first female Air Mail pilot.
- Emily Howell-Warner
Emily Howell-Warner became a pioneer as the first female pilot to be hired by a scheduled US airline in 1973. She learned to fly at Clinton Aviation Company where she became the school’s manager and Chief Pilot. Frontier Airlines hired her in 1973 and she went on to become the first female captain three years later.
- Jeannie Leavitt
After joining the Air Force in 1992, Jeannie Leavitt became the first female fighter pilot and the first female fighter wing commander in 2012. Fun fact, Brie Larson worked with Leavitt in preparation of her role as Captain Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel.
These women were the first of many, and females around the world can look up to them as they continue or begin their own aviation journeys. There is a continued demand for an increase in female pilots as less than 3% of all global pilots are female so you could be the next impactful pilot on this list.