If it weren’t for the innovations and pioneering spirit of many of these women, the aviation field landscape would be very different today. These are seven female pilots throughout history who paved the way for future pilots.
Noted for: First woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean
Amelia Earhart broke several records during her time as a pilot, including being the first woman to fly above 14,000 feet, until her mysterious disappearance in 1937. In the decades since, scholars and aviation enthusiasts have proposed many theories about what happened to her.
Noted for: First civilian licensed African American pilot in the world
After her brother – one of her 12 siblings – told her she would never fly, Bessie enrolled and completed her training at a French aviation school. She returned to the U.S. and performed in aviation shows until her fatal accident in 1926. Her legacy was the catalyst for the first flying schools for African Americans and inspired generations of pilots.
Noted for: First licensed U.S. woman pilot
Harriet Quimby was a talented travel writer, star reporter and photographer. Her journalism career gave her the freedom to explore adventure and led her to the aviation field. She became an air racing star and lived life on the other side of the camera until her fatal crash in 1912.
Noted for: First woman to exceed the speed of sound
Jacqueline Cochran rose from a poverty-stricken background and became one of the most accomplished female aviators in history. She learned to fly while working as a cosmetics saleswoman in 1932. She was an extremely accomplished pilot and the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Race, make a blind instrument landing and fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean.
Noted for: First woman to fly as a passenger aboard an airplane
Thérèse Peltier is believed to be the first woman to fly as a passenger in a heavier-than-air craft. Alongside Léon Delagrance in Milan in 1908, she made a flight of 656 feet. On her flight at the Military Square at Turin, she flew for two minutes, traversing 656 feet at an elevation of seven feet.
Raymonde de Laroche
Noted for: First woman to receive a pilot’s license
In 1910, after being instructed by aviation pioneer Charles Voisin himself, she became the first woman to earn her pilot’s license. She won several aviation competitions, including the Femina Cup for a nonstop flight of four hours. She died in a test flight accident, and is commonly considered the first female test pilot.
Noted for: First woman to fly in space
Valentina Tereshkova was inspired by Yuri Gagarin’s success at becoming the first man in space in 1961. She was accepted into the Soviet space program and completed 18 months of training with four other women. She alone made the journey into space, and spent more than 70 hours orbiting the Earth 48 times.
For more women in the history of aviation, check out this story!
Make Your Mark on History
These women had a tremendous impact in the early stages of aviation – who knows what the next major step forward will be? There are hundreds of aviation careers just waiting to be filled by a skilled, forward-thinking individual like you. See what the Aviation Triad can do for you by visiting us online to explore helpful resources about how to begin your aviation career.