To celebrate Black History Month, we’d like to highlight Black female pilots who have made strides in both commercial and military roles.

As PlaneAire was founded and is piloted by a female visionary, let’s celebrate these Black aviators who were and are role models for generations to come.

bessie-coleman black female pilot

Bessie Coleman

We featured Bessie Coleman, “Queen Bess, Daredevil Aviator” in our National Aviation Day post, and she deserves a mention here as she was the first woman African-American pilot in 1921. She traveled to France to obtain her pilot’s license because no schools in the U.S. would admit her.

Bessie Coleman thrilled crowds by performing dangerous flight maneuvers in airplanes. Coleman was a manicurist on Chicago’s south side in 1919 when her brother (who served in the Army in France during World War I) taunted her that there was no way Black women would ever fly planes like women did in France.

She was determined to prove him wrong. She raised money, studied French and got a higher paying job to move to France. On Nov. 20, 1920, she set off for Europe and enrolled at the flight school founded by the aviation pioneers Gaston and René Caudron at Le Crotoy in the Somme in northern France. Coleman saw aviation as a way to empower Black people in America and dreamed of opening a flight school. She never did, but future pilots have been inspired by her.

Carole Hopson

Black women make up less than one percent of all certified pilots, according to the FAA. United Airlines pilot Carole Hopson is on a mission to change that.

She has teamed up with United Aviate (United Airlines’ flight school) and Sisters of the Skies, a non-profit organization that supports Black female pilots, to enroll 100 Black women in flight school by 2035. When Carole was a little girl, she would watch planes take off and land near Philadelphia International Airport, and then she and her grandmother would spin a globe to guess where planes were coming from. Her now husband surprised Hopson with flight lessons on their first date and in 2018, she began flying full-time for United Airlines.

When Hopson joined United, she was one of two female pilots in a class of 40, and the only Black woman. She shared in a People article, “Another thing that needs to change: the sexism Hopson says she often experiences at work. ‘Even when I’m in my full pilot’s uniform, passengers will ask me for a cup of coffee and confuse me for a flight attendant, as if that’s the only job a woman can have on a plane.