American Airlines is celebrating the 100-year legacy of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license, by operating a Black-women led flight, according to The Dallas Morning News. This month, a crew of 36 Black women flew from Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport to Phoenix.
Let me remind you who “Queen Bess” is. She grew up in Atlanta, Texas, with little access to education. When she hit her 20s, she began dreaming about becoming a pilot, according to her biography. At the time, the only women who flew were from France. Back here, they didn’t dare allow women let alone Black women learn how to fly a plane. That’s when Coleman decided to go to France and earn her pilot’s license which she received in 1921. She returned to the States greeted with praise for becoming the first Black woman pilot and became an air show performer.
In 1926, while in the air, her plane had a mechanical error that led to a fatal crash. Though, her courage and legacy lived on.
More on American Airlines’ celebration from NPR:
The airline hosted the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars tour last week to celebrate the anniversary of Coleman earning her pilot’s license in 1921.
“She bravely broke down barriers within the world of aviation and paved the path for many to follow,” the airline said in a news release.
To honor Coleman’s legacy, her great-niece, Gigi Coleman, was hosted by American Airlines on the flight, according to the airline.
“I am grateful for American Airlines to give us this opportunity to highlight my great aunt’s accomplishments in the field of aviation,” Gigi said in a video posted by American Airlines.
The airlines said it is being intentional in its efforts to diversify the flight deck, as Black women have been “notably underrepresented in the aviation industry” — Black women currently represent less than 1% in the commercial airline industry.
The pilots, flight attendants, cargo team members and aviation maintenance technicians are all women who look like me. You don’t realize how impactful something like this is until you sit back and think, “When has a Black woman flown any of the planes I’ve been on?” Ohhh, what I would’ve given to be on that flight to Phoenix.
“Bessie Coleman was such an advocate and today we all are Bessie Coleman. Her dream has been fulfilled. From the bottom up, African American women are doing it in the field of aviation and Aerospace,” said Dr. Sheila L. Chamberlain, National Chair of Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars, via American Airlines.