Women of Aviation Week: March 2-8
March 7, 2015 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Since the 1980s, the female pilot population has been stagnating at unbearably low levels. Out of more than 1 million pilots worldwide, there are only 50,000 female pilots. Other technical fields in the air and space industry are equally lacking female presence. Women of Aviation Week Worldwide celebrates women's aviation history and encourages girls and women to get out and 'be the majority' at your local aviation site.

Their Fly It Forward challenge encourages women pilots to introduce the next generation of girls and women to aviation. The Get On The Wall encourages girls and women to post their weekly activities.
The Women of Aviation Worldwide Week has been celebrated in 39 countries worldwide. Airports and aerodromes host women-centric events to invite and encourage female interest in aviation. There are also a number of national contests and competitions. These categories include:
• Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport
• Most Female Pilot Friendly Training Center Worldwide
• Most Dedicated Female Pilot Worldwide
• Most Supportive Male Pilot Worldwide

Some women who started it all:
Aida de Acosta, in June 1903, was the first woman to fly a motorized aircraft, after completing only three instructional lessons.
Raymonde de Laroche, became the first female licensed pilot on March 8th, 1910.
Bessica Medlar Raiche built her own airplane which she flew solo on September 16, 1910.
posted by what's her name (20 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My sister-in-law transported a Russian general aboard her C-130 a few years back. At the end of the flight he came up to the cockpit to shake her hand and said "I've been in the military for 40 years and this is the first time I've had a woman pilot."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:20 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kenyan Dreamliner pilot Captain Irene Koki Mutungi and her all women crew fly their newest Dreamliner home from Boeing's assembly plant.

First and only Somalian air force pilot.
posted by infini at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Obligatory Amelia Earhart
posted by infini at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2015

Needs WomensMarch tag
posted by infini at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

First in the U.S. was Harriet Quimby, who got her pilot's license in August 1911.

When I used to write a lot for Air & Space/Smithsonian (in the late years of the last century), they often published stories about Patty Wagstaff, the first woman to dominate aerobatic competitions. Looks like the A&S Museum now has enshrined her airplane, as well.

p.s. An online exhibit featuring the biographies of almost 50 women pilots can be found at the museum's website.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:01 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

!!!! I took a zeppelin ride in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and had the honor and privilege to fly with Kate Board, who was the only female zeppelin pilot in the world. She was the happiest pilot I've ever met - it was clear she was passionate about her job - and not only did she give us an awesome flying experience she patiently answered all my nerdy wacky questions about zeppelins. I adore people who love their jobs and so enthusiastically share that love with others, and I've thought about her and her path/career a lot since then.

But then, looking for a link to Board, I find out that there's now 2 woman zeppelin pilots! Andrea Deyling of the United States is now the second.

So you go, Kate Board and Andrea Deyling!

On the subject of firsts, let's not forget Josephine Baker - a completely amazing woman - who got her pilot's license in 1933 and then used her extraordinariness to help the Allies in France. She was also one of the very first black pilots (as well as the first black woman to star in a major film).

And in celebration of women in flight, Anna Lee Fisher, chemist and NASA astronaut, the first mother in space. And subject of one of my favorite photographs.
posted by barchan at 11:06 AM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

From Kate Beaton, Chinese-American aviatrix Katherine Sui Fun Cheung. "I wanted to fly, so I did."

More, from Wikipedia.
posted by themanwho at 11:06 AM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, this is a cute story

Ground realities may be harsh for women in India, but they're still determined to conquer the skies.

Almost 600 of the 5,050 pilots in Indian airlines are women, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). At 11.6%, this is way above the 3% global average estimated by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots.

India is also seeing a steady rise in women pilots annually. The last five years saw 4,267 commercial pilots' licences being issued, of which 628 or 14.7% went to women.

One of the reasons why women pilots fare better in India than in other countries is the strong family support system they have here. "Women who go on overseas flights have to spend days away from home. In India, women have their mothers or mothers-in-law to take care of the kids and that ensures they can go on long flights too," says a woman pilot.

The merged Air India-Indian Airlines has the second largest number of women pilots at 171, and often has an all-women crew operating its longest non-stop flights to the US.

pardon me while I threadsit, if I hadn't been skinny, short, myopic and female, I'd have been an airforce jet pilot like my big brother cousin
posted by infini at 11:15 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jacqueline Auriol was among the first women test pilots, set several world speed records, and was named Grand Officier de la Légion d'honneur.

A few years ago I had the wonderful surprise privilege of seeing the Patrouille de France's very first woman leader fly over the Baie des Anges: Commandant Virginie Guyot, pictured here with her fellow pilots.

Great post, thank you!
posted by fraula at 11:18 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I know I am an outlier, but of the three pilots I know (i.e not counting people whom I have met once -- such as mefi's own backseatpilot), two are women.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:26 AM on March 7, 2015

My sister is an airline captain. She has two daughters. She'd socialize with people like herself, as one does, so her daughters grew up believing that of course the majority of pilots are women. It's all about perspective, I guess.
posted by rlk at 11:26 AM on March 7, 2015

One of my favorite pioneer aviatrices is Fay Gillis Wells (New York Times Obit | a charter member of the '99s | Founder of the Forest of Friendship).
posted by julen at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2015

Then there are those with their own problems (at least it isn't a car)
posted by infini at 11:37 AM on March 7, 2015

My long-time friend Ann Pellegreno is worth mention here, too. In 1967, she flew a Lockheed 10 around the world in honor of Amelia Earhart's ill-fated world flight thirty years previously.
posted by drhydro at 12:23 PM on March 7, 2015

Obligatory Beryl Markham.

This is a great post - and how cool to learn that Josephine Baker was a pilot!
posted by kristi at 12:36 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

We have 16 pilots in our club, and they're all men. However, one of our regular flight instructors is a woman and I heard this rather amusing tale second hand about her.

A few months ago, this instructor of our was in a crash. She was giving instruction to a student at her flight school in one of their Cirruses, when the engine suddenly quit while they were on final approach back to the airport. Attempts to restart it failed, and she was forced to use the plane's emergency parachute. From what I heard, it was a fairly wild ride to the ground.

Anyway, the first responders show up as they're both exiting the plane (no injuries, thankfully). They immediately go over to the (male) student thinking he's in charge, but he just sits down in the muck and starts vomiting. She got out of the plane cool as ice and took charge of the situation from there.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:46 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

On the right of this picture is Sam Cristoforetti, fighter pilot and astronaut, who is on the ISS right now.
posted by emilyw at 3:27 PM on March 7, 2015

I wonder how much of this is due to the crazy expense ($10,000 was one figure I heard mentioned) and time involved in obtaining a pilot's license? After all, most pilots receive their training in the Air Force and there are only 678 female pilots there currently, if I recall correctly.
posted by enamon at 3:35 PM on March 7, 2015

I have a few instructors' signatures in my logbooks, but the one I'm proudest of belongs to a record setter.
posted by tss at 6:32 PM on March 7, 2015

Awesome post and great comments. Thank you!

(And I SO BADLY WANT a t-shirt with the "I'm gonna 'cause I WANT TO" image of Katherine Sui Fun Cheung.)
posted by Lexica at 6:44 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

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