LONDON – To celebrate International Women’s Day last week, Netflights.com came together with the women of the aviation industry, to highlight the top ten female influencers in the aviation scene, as well as what achievements, goals, and figures that we are to see going into the next ten years.
With only 3% of pilots in the world being female, and the UK only having 6%, this article should highlight the greatest achievements from the female spectrum of the aviation field and should encourage more women to get into the industry.
Paul Hopkinson, Marketing Director from Netflights said, “Celebrating International Women’s Day is essential not only to highlight women’s achievements but also to raise awareness. We want people to both be inspired and to remember that there’s still work to be done when it comes to women’s rights in the workplace around the world. Celebrating ‘Women with Altitude’ is the perfect way to mark International Women’s Day, as this highlights the amazing contributions women have made to what is considered a male-dominated field.”
Here are 10 of the most inspiring women from the industry:
Raymonde de Laroche, 1910:
When Aviation was just starting to form as an important part of our society, it was a grand opportunity for women to get involved with the field too. Raymonde de Laroche in 1910 became the first woman in the world to receive a pilot’s license, which paved the way to encourage other women to follow her footsteps and to take to the skies.
Laroche was born in 1882 and died aged 36 in 1919 when the plane she co-piloted crashed at Le Bourget Airport, France. The event Women of Worldwide Aviation Week is held every year in March to celebrate her achievements as a woman pilot.
Lilian Bland, 1911:
Known as the energetic, unconventional and adventurous woman, Lilian Bland became the first woman to design, build and pilot her own plane from scratch in 1911. This aircraft was playfully known as the Mayfly, which was the short abbreviation for whether the aircraft will fly or not.
The Maidstone-based pilot installed a 20 horsepower A.V. Roe & Co Engine after conducting glider tests on the aircraft. The engine was necessary for use on higher loads of weight; at the time it only produced 1,000 RPM and had a lot of problems such as heavy vibrations among the nuts, bolts, and struts that kept it together.
Bland died at Aged 92 in 1971, having lived life as a car salesman after being persuaded earlier on by her father to exchange the aircraft for a car.
Hilda Beatrice Hewlett, 1911:
Born in February 1864, Hilda Beatrice Hewlett became the first British woman to receive a pilot’s license and also established the first-ever flying school in the UK. On top of this, she also contributed significantly to the UK’s effort in the First World War by co-founding a successful aircraft manufacturing business.
Her business produced 800 aircraft and employed 700 people during the First World War, highlighting the key importance of her business to the British war effort. With Hewlett being the first UK pilot to gain a license, she has the distinguished ID number of 122 given out by the Royal Aero Club.
She died in 1943 during a service out at sea in New Zealand. She was buried at sea.
Harriet Quimby, 1911
Harriet Quimby, born in 1875 in Arcadia, Michigan was the first U.S. woman to receive a pilot’s license from the Aero Club of America. On top of this, she also became the first woman to fly successfully across the English Channel in 1912 and produced a lot of screenplays for Hollywood as well as created articles for Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.
On the same year of her becoming the first woman to travel across the English Channel, she died a few months afterward in Boston during the third annual Boston Aviation Meet, where she ejected and fell to her death from 3,000 feet.
Bessie Coleman, 1921:
At the height of racial and gender discrimination in America, Bessie Coleman dismissed all of that discrimination by becoming the first person (male or female) of African-American descent, as well as the first of Native American descent, to hold a pilot’s license in the USA.
Born in 1892, she saved up her money to gain her pilots license in France, rather than the U.S due to the lack of opportunities at the time for women, especially of different race, to gain a license. She got her international license in 1921 and held it for five years before dying in a crash in 1926.
Amelia Earhart, 1928:
Arguably to have been one of the most famous women in aviation, Amelia Earhart was known as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Born in 1897, her many other achievements featured becoming the first woman to fly solo above 14,000 feet in 1922, helping form the Ninety-Nines in 1929, which was an organization for all-female-pilots as well as becoming the first one to fly solo from Hawaii to California in 1935.
She died in 1939 in the Pacific Ocean, whilst flying en route to Howland Island from Lae, Papua New Guinea, with a lot of speculation about how she went down. Many analysts have suggested that she ran out of fuel and crashed off-shore.
Her $4 million-rescue search response was called off and since then, different groups have tried to track her activity leading up to the crash, to determine where she did end up crashing.
Amy Johnson, 1930:
Born in 1903, British pilot Amy Johnson, one year after obtaining her pilot’s license in 1929, became the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia. To put into perspective the scale of the flight, her longest solo flight before that had been from London to Hull.
She conducted the flight using a De Havilland DH-60 Gipsy Moth registered G-AAAH. She traveled 11,000 miles in 19 days, with an eventful landing in Darwin following damages to her aircraft in the final leg of the flight.
She also flew in the Second World War in the Air Transport Auxiliary.
Because of this achievement, she received the Harmon Trophy as well as well as a CBE in George V’s 1930 Birthday Honours. She died in 1941 during the Second World War due to adverse weather conditions whilst in-flight.
Jacqueline Cochran, 1953:
Born in 1906, Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman in the world to break the sound barrier. She achieved this in 1953 with an F-86 Sabre. She also played a big part in the way women were utilized during the Second World War by persuading the United States Government to let women pilots support the army in non-combat missions.
This contribution ultimately led to the creation of both the Women’s Auxiliary Air Corps and the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Cochran was already part of a program called Wings for Britain, an organization that helped in the ferrying of British-made aircraft to the Americans.
She also trained women pilots at the British Transport Auxiliary. Such pilots were from the U.S., who were transferred to the United Kingdom, to help fight the war before the American country eventually joined. She died in 1980 at the age of 76 in her home.
Emily Howell Warner, 1973:
It wasn’t until the 1970s that women pilots made it into the commercial spotlight. Emily Howell Warner eventually broke this spell in 1973 when she became the first female commercial pilot when she got hired at Frontier Airlines.
On top of this, she became the first female pilot to become a captain for a commercial airline. She was also a flight instructor and a qualified FAA examiner who had over 21,000 flight hours and had conducted over 3,000 check rides.
In 1973, she earned the Amelia Earhart award for advancements in the aviation industry that was currently in a very male-dominated field. In 2014, she was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame too.
Wang Zheng (Julie Wang), 2016:
Having obtained her pilot’s certificate in 2011, Julie Wang became the first Asian woman in the world to circumnavigate the planet by aeroplane in 2016. Using a modified Cirrus SR-22, Wang covered 21,000 miles in 18 flying days, covering 24 different countries.
She also became the first Chinese female pilot to hold the three types of FAA rating approvals being CFI, CFII, and MEI as well as holding a flight instructor rating under the FAA too.
At age 45, she continues to thrive as a woman in the aviation field, having to be one of only nine women pilots to circumnavigate the world.
Check out Netflights’ tribute to Women in Aviation here!