100th Anniversary of Bessie Coleman’s First Flight


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By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Correspondent

American Airlines celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license – Bessie Coleman accomplished that feat in 1922.

With an all-Black female crew, the airlines hosted the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars tour, recognizing how Coleman bravely broke down barriers within the world of aviation and paved the path for many to follow.

To help honor Coleman’s legacy, American Airlines hosted Gigi Coleman, Bessie’s great-niece, on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Phoenix.

An all-Black female crew – from the pilots and flight attendants to the cargo team members and the aviation maintenance technician – took the reins for the special occasion.

“American is being intentional in its efforts to diversify the flight deck,” airline officials wrote in a news release.

With an all-Black female crew, American airlines hosted the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars tour, recognizing how Coleman bravely broke down barriers within the world of aviation and paved the path for many to follow.
With an all-Black female crew, American airlines hosted the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars tour, recognizing how Coleman bravely broke down barriers within the world of aviation and paved the path for many to follow.

“Black women have been notably underrepresented in the aviation industry, especially as pilots, representing less than 1% in the commercial airline industry.”

Through the American Airlines Cadet Academy, the airline said it’s committed to expanding awareness of and increasing accessibility to the pilot career within diverse communities.

Coleman earned a pilot’s license in 1921 and performed the first public flight by a Black woman in 1922.

She traveled to France to obtain her license when the U.S. refused her.

Coleman then performed air shows in and around Chicago, according to federal records.
Captain Beth Powell and First Officer Charlene Shortte led the American Airlines flight to observe the centennial of Coleman’s history-making journey.

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