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Women Continuing to Make Aviation History

This blog post was updated on January 25, 2022.

Men and women equality–it’s an ongoing occurrence. Gender equality has made lots of progress, however, women continue to make history by accomplishing many 1sts. If you take a look back at history there are some remarkable and inspiring stories about women who have earned their equal rights, especially in the aviation industry.

Here’s a list of some extraordinary historical events made by women.

The most recent…

History was made in early November 2015 on a flight between Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare and one of the country’s most visited tourist attractions, Victoria Falls. It was the first-ever flight in Zimbabwe to have an all-female flight deck crew. Captains Chipo M. Matimba and Elizabeth Simbi Petros, who piloted the Boeing 737, posted celebratory photos and comments on social media as they made history for Air Zimbabwe. As we celebrate this step in the right direction for gender parity in the international airline industry, let’s take a look at other history-making women in aviation.

1906 – E. Lilian Todd the Pioneer

E. Lilian Todd, a self- taught inventor originally from Washington, D.C., began designing an aircraft in 1906 that was successfully piloted in 1910. A New York Times article from 1909 identifies her as the first woman in the world to design and build an aircraft.

1934 – Helen Rickey Earned It

Helen Richey was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and learned to fly at the age of 20. In 1934, Richey demonstrated her aviation prowess by winning the premier air race at the first National Air Meet for women in Dayton, Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, Central Airlines (which later merged with United Airlines) hired Richey as a pilot and she flew her first commercial flight from Washington DC to Detroit on December 31st, 1934. Unfortunately, she eventually was forced to step down from her job by the all-male pilots union.

Empowering women isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. -Barack Obama

1964 – Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock Flies Solo

Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock was the first woman to fly solo around the world. She began her trip on March 19th, 1964 in Columbus, Ohio, and ended it on April 17th, 1964 in the same spot. All told, the trip took 29 days (including 21 stopovers) and she traveled an impressive 22, 860 miles. In 1965, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale awarded her the Louis Blériot medal in recognition of her accomplishments in aviation.

1984 – A Female Take-Over

Captain Emily H. Warner and First Officer Barbara Cook comprised the first ever all-female flight deck crew as they flew a Frontier Airlines plane from Denver, Colorado to Lexington, Kentucky.

2015 – Women Unite

Earlier this year, Captain Kim Noakes and First Officer Jan Lumbrazo were the first United Airlines all-female cockpit team as they piloted a new plane to United’s Chicago fleet.

Do you know of any other aviation 1sts from women? Tell us in the comments below!

About the author

Jen Westmoreland Bouchard

An insatiable foodie, art collector, and international literature aficionado, I have traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. For the past fifteen years, I have written about my adventures for various travel and literary publications. I am the owner of Lucidité Writing ( and Bouchard Design Co. (

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