Bessie Coleman, first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license, honored by All-Black, female airline crew
Phoenix — An American Airlines flight recently made history when, for the first time in the carrier’s 96-year existence, everyone involved from the ramp to the gate to the cockpit and cabin were all Black women.
The recent flight from Phoenix to Dallas celebrated the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license.
Coleman had to learn to fly in France because it wasn’t an option in the U.S. She then became a renowned stunt pilot before losing her life in a plane crash in 1926.
Her great niece, Gigi Coleman, was on the celebration flight.
“I think she would’ve been really amazed and in awe. I was in awe, and this is 2022,” said Gigi Coleman, who runs Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars, an after-school program aimed at inspiring kids, especially young people of color, to take flight.
“My great-aunt received her license two years before Amelia Earhart,” she said. “She wasn’t in the history books. No one knew about her.”
There are fewer than 150 Black women airline pilots in the U.S., according to Sisters of the Skies, an organization of Black women airline pilots. American Airlines 737 Captain Beth Powell is one of them.
“I’ve never had an all-Black female flight crew in my entire career,” Powell said. “Representation is so important today, because when you see someone in yourself, you know it’s possible. ‘I can do this, too.'”