As there are countless women who have paved the way for all women, Women’s History Month is an excellent opportunity for us to shine a spotlight on several inspirational and influential figures in the aviation industry. Their determination, effort and fearless mindset encourages us to continue to expand the boundaries and inspire the next generation.
Read and learn about four influential women in the aviation industry:
Baroness Raymond de Laroche
Baroness Raymond de Laroche was born in Paris, France in 1882 and became fascinated with aviation. When she was 27 years old, she asked pilot Charles Voisin to teach her how to fly. Since Voisin’s aircraft could only seat one person, Raymond learned all the controls on the ground. On March 8, 1910, Raymond became the first woman with an official pilot’s license. She went on to win Coupe Femina, a French award for female pilots. Her flying career came to a halt due to World War I, as all commercial planes were stopped and directed their attention to the war effort.
Willa Brown Chappell
Willa Brown Chappell became the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license and a master mechanic’s certificate in the U.S. Chappell began flying lessons in 1934 at Chicago’s Aeronautical University. Three years later she earned her private pilot’s license and a Master’s degree from Northwestern University. In 1942 she became the first Black woman member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Alongside her husband Cornelius Coffee, they created the Coffee School of Aeronautics, which was the first US government approved school of aviation for Black people.
Katherine Cheung was born in China in 1904, but came to live in the U.S. with her father in Los Angeles. Katherine received her pilot’s certificate in 1932 as the first licensed Asian-American female pilot in the U.S. In 1935, she obtained an international airline license and flew as a commercial pilot. She flew aerobatics in an open cockpit Fleet and regularly entered competitive air races including the Chatterton Air Race in 1936. The Beijing Air Force Aviation Museum calls her “China’s Amelia Earhart.”
Born in 1902, Phoebe Omlie was the first woman to obtain her airplane mechanics license. During her aviation career she was the first female pilot to cross over the Rocky Mountains in a light aircraft. During the New Deal, Omlie was also the first woman to hold an executive position in federal aeronautics. She was acknowledged by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and was named among “the eleven women whose achievements make it safe to say that the world is progressing.”
Be sure to watch our blog and social media channels this month as we recognize the significance of Women’s History Month.