September 15 marked the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize the achievements of members of our communities of Hispanic descent, and it takes place over 30 days starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. These 30 days are a nod to the anniversaries of national independence for numerous Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as they all recognize September 15 as the date of their independence. Mexico’s independence is celebrated on September 16 and Chile celebrates its independence on September 18.
We also recognize and we take pride in our diversity as a company. Without these significant Hispanic figures in aviation, our own company as well as the entire aviation industry would not be as advanced and inclusive as it is today.
Here are four Hispanic figures in aviation who have made a significant mark in the history of aviation:
Felix Rigau Carrera
Felix Rigau Carrera was the first Hispanic fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. As a child, Rigau Carrera dreamed of flying and launched model airplanes off rooftops in his hometown of Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico. The soon-to-be pilot earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and joined the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps during World War I as a paratrooper and pilot. After World War I, Carrera returned to Puerto Rico, and became the island’s first air mailman.
“When I was in flight school, there were over 3,000 pilots that flew Black Hawks – and only 120 of them were females.” Marisol Chalas became the first Latina National Guard Black Hawk pilot. Chalas was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Massachusetts in 1982. She enlisted in the Army National Guard during high school and was appointed as an aviation officer in 2001. While attending Fort Rucker Army Aviation School, she became first in her class and earned over a dozen awards, including the Senior Aviator Badge.
Jorge Chavez was born in Peru and became the first Peruvian aviator and engineer to fly across the Alps. He earned his pilot’s license at age 23. On September 19, 1910, he began his flight from the French side of the Alps for his record-breaking journey. His 51-minute flight was successful, but he crashed during landing. Chavez survived the crash, but died from injuries four days later.
Berta Zerón first discovered her love for aviation when she came across one of Amelia Earhart’s airplanes while traveling on a ship. Several years later, Zeron applied for her flight practice permit and completed her first official flight in July of 1947. Zeron received a commercial pilot’s license and unlimited public transport pilot license – which made her the first Mexican woman to obtain her pilot’s license. Zeron went on to win her first ‘Emilio Carranza’ medal and had a ground breaking career as a commercial pilot.
Be sure to watch our blog and social media channels as we recognize the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month.