Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – Aviation Heroes

As May marks the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), we are recognizing the contributions and achievements of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the aviation industry – both past and present.

There are more than 21 million Americans who are able to trace their ancestry back to various parts of Asia, and today, only 2.5 percent of airline pilots in the U.S. are of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent.

We are proud of our Asian-Pacific American employees and we also recognize those who have paved the way. Read more about four historical and influential figures in aviation:

Katherine Cheung

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.”

Jessica Cox

Jessica Cox is a Filipino-American who became the first person to fly a plane using only her feet. As Cox was born without arms, she taught herself how to do daily activities with her feet, and soon took on active tasks. She taught herself how to swim, write and drive a car – and took on the challenge of pursuing her sports pilot license. In 2008, Cox earned her pilot license and became the first armless pilot. She was then placed in the Guinness World Record and now travels around the world as a motivational speaker.

Arthur Tien Chin

Arthur Tien Chin was World War II’s first American flying ace, of any ethnicity. He went on to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. After the war and his aviation career came to an end, Chin became a postal worker in Portland, Oregon. About a month after Chin died in 1997, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Airpower Heritage Museum in Texas. In 2008, a post office in Beaverton, Oregon was named the “Major Arthur Chin Post Office Building.”

Quang X. Pham

Quang X. Pham was the first Vietnamese-American to earn naval aviator’s wings in the U.S. Marine Corps. Born in South Vietnam in 1964, Quang, his three sisters and his mother soon left their home as the Communist North Vietnamese Army invaded South Vietnam. Pham and his family immigrated to California. In 2000, Pham founded a pharmaceutical promotions company, raised $14 million from investors, and was chairman and CEO. Today, Pham is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, businessman, author and community leader.

Be sure to watch our blog and social media channels this month as we recognize the significance of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.