Perhaps you heard about a big first for Air Zimbabwe this week, when it dispatched its first ever all-female crew. That milestone got us reflecting on other firsts for women in aviation. Here are just a few…
On October 7, 1908 our own Wilbur Wright took his first female passenger, Mrs. Edith Berg, on a two-minute flight over Auvours, France. A photo documenting this Wright brothers first shows Mrs. Berg seated next to Wilbur in the open aircraft, her full-length skirt tied below her knees to keep it from billowing up. Can you believe the brothers’ sister Katharine, pictured above, was the third female passenger?
Just a few months earlier, in July of that year, Therese Peltier is believed to have been the first ever woman passenger in an airplane. She didn’t stay in the passenger seat long: in September of 1908 she became the first woman to pilot a flight!
In the following decades much of aviation’s history is interwoven with military history, and women pilots were there as well. For example, during WWII there were 1,074 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and they flew over 60 million miles in military planes for the United States Army Air Force.
But, after the war women struggled to find opportunities in commercial aviation, until in 1973 when Bonnie Tiburzi became the first female pilot to be hired by a major airline (American Airlines). The first female captain to fly for a major airline (also AA) was Beverly Bass, in 1986. And, shifting back to the military, in the U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Jeannie Flynn became the first female F-15E pilot in 1993.
The Wright Brothers are proud to acknowledge our “sisters” and their various flight firsts. We encourage you to do what they did by following our lead: be first!