American Airlines celebrated the 100-year legacy of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license, with a flight led by an all-Black female crew, reports Today.
Gigi Coleman, Bessie’s great-niece and also president of the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars was aboard the flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Phoenix that was operated by a crew of Black women from the pilot, flight attendants, the cargo team, and maintenance technicians. In total, 36 women were listed as members of the historic flight crew.
“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 shared by the airline.
“I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of the crew where we’re inspiring young girls, young girls of color, to see the various roles that these women play in every aspect to make this flight possible,” Captain Beth Powell added.
In an Instagram post, the airline captured all the women preparing to make history on the flight.
“These women symbolize an empowering legacy,” the words on the video read. “100 years ago Bessie Coleman paved the way for this all-Black crew to soar! Thank you Bessie Coleman for breaking down barriers for Black women to continue to spread their wings in aviation.”
Despite all the obstacles that stood in her way, Bessie Coleman was determined to fly. After being denied entrance into aviation schools in America because she was a Black woman, she learned French, saved her money, and traveled to France for flight school in the early 1900s. In 1921, she received her pilot's license from the Federation Aeronautique International, becoming the first Black female pilot in America and also the first American to obtain an international pilot's license in France.
On April 30, 1926, Bessie passed away during a crash on a test flight with another pilot in Jacksonville, Florida at the age of 34.
Almost 100 years after her death, the legacy of Bessie Coleman is alive and well as Black women continue to make significant strides in the aviation sector.
After the flight, the pilots, cadets, and members of the Bessie Coleman Aerospace Legacy Foundation greeted students at The Academies at South Mountain in Phoenix and discuss the numerous careers available in aviation.