September 30, 2022
All-black Female Flight Crew Honors Bessie Coleman
Airlines Industry Pioneers Special Flights

All-black Female Flight Crew Honors Bessie Coleman

DALLAS – For the first time in the history of American Airlines (AA), all of the crew involved on flight AA372, from the ramp to the gate to the cockpit and cabin, were Black women.

Bessie Coleman. Image: National Women’s History Museum

Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to obtain a pilot’s license, was honored on the AA flight from Phoenix to Dallas to mark her 100th birthday.

Because flying wasn’t an option in the United States, Coleman had to learn to fly in France. She later rose to fame as a stunt pilot before passing away in a plane tragedy in 1926.

According to Sisters of the Skies, an organization for Black women airline pilots, there are less than 150 Black women pilots in the United States. Boeing 737 Captain Beth Powell of AA is one of them.

“I’ve never had an all-Black female flight crew in my entire career,” Powell said. “Representation is so important today, because when you see someone in yourself, you know it’s possible. ‘I can do this, too.'”

Bessie’s great-niece, Gigi Coleman, was also on the celebration flight. “I think she would’ve been really amazed and in awe. I was in awe, and this is 2022,” said Gigi Coleman, who runs Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars, an after-school program geared toward inspiring kids, especially young people of color, to take to the skies.

Diversity at American Airlines

During the 46th annual conference of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), which took place from August 10–12, AA announced a grant of US$1.5m to the organization’s Luke Weathers Flight Academy.

The 46th annual conference of OBAP featured a number of eminent industry speakers, workshops for aerospace professional development, and networking opportunities, with AA serving as the title sponsor.

American said the contribution will help the Lieutenant Colonel Luke Weathers Flight Academy recruit and educate pilots from a variety of backgrounds and support the airline’s initiatives to aid the industry’s efforts to diversify the flight deck.

“The Luke Weathers Flight Academy is a one-of-a-kind training ground where students of all backgrounds, especially aspiring pilots of color, can receive the training, support, and mentorship pivotal to their success in the pilot profession,” said Ret. Captain and Co-Director of the Luke Weathers Flight Academy, Albert Glenn. “American’s support will only amplify our ability to prepare more aviators for successful careers.”

Additionally, to help introduce youth to a variety of career opportunities, AA hosted more than 150 students systemwide at its facilities throughout the summer as a part of OBAP’s Aerospace Career Education (ACE) Academy. The Academy provides hands-on experience on the fundamentals of aerodynamics for middle and high school students.

Featured image: American Airlines N118NN Airbus A321-231. Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways. Article source: @CBSEveningNews

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter and visual artist; grammar geek, an avid fan of aviation, motorcycles, sci-fi literature, and film.

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