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We Can Do It! - Women of Aviation Worldwide Week

Don’t be fooled: women have always been a part of aviation's DNA, despite making up only 8.4% of the pilot population in 2020.

Not only that, but we’ve also been instrumental to flight activities in every pocket of the globe, demonstrating without a doubt that from square one we’ve been just as daring and capable as our male counterparts. This highlight of six women who made flying history, one from every continent excluding Antarctica, is brought to you in honor of women in aviation worldwide week from March 6 to 12.

Supporters of Women of Aviation Worldwide Week celebrate in Frederick, Maryland by throwing the emblematic pink paper airplanes.

The first woman we’re featuring the accomplishments of is Jean Batten, a New Zealander who broke scores of solo flight records in the 1930s. In 1935 she was the first woman to fly across the South Atlantic, then in 1936 made the first ever flight directly to New Zealand from England. Before such flight records were given frenzied media attention an American named Edith Berg, the famed wife of the Wright brothers business representative for Europe (Hart O. Berg), made a splash by becoming the first woman in the country to fly as a plane passenger in 1908. Between the accomplishments of these two women, Australian Millicent Bryant became the first Australian woman to receive a pilot license in 1927. The gravity of the accomplishment was heightened by the fact that flights were very dangerous at the time, and she was a 49-year-old mother to three children.

It was only two years later in 1929 when Lee Ya-Ching, a famous Chinese actress, experienced her first flight. She went on to petition the Chinese government to issue her its first pilots license to a woman, then opened her own flying school in Shanghai.  The fifth woman in this round-up, Asli Hassan Abade, is a Somalian who became the first female military pilot in Africa. Not only that, but to date, she has been the only woman in the Somali air force. To close our worldwide tour of just a few notable women in aviation, Claudine Melnik is certainly a fair pick for South America’s highlight. She became Brazil’s first female airline captain in 1995. She’s accrued more than 20,000 flight hours since and has spoken publicly on the concerns of mothers who fly professionally.

This week we’re a little extra thankful to women like all of the above for becoming the representation we need to see in our spaces. With their bravery they have made the future of flying brighter for us all. As for a word of closing: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

Rachel Rice

Product Marketing Coordinator
Rachel Rice is a current product marketing coordinator with AOPA. She is a student pilot who has always enjoyed reading and writing a wide variety of material, now including content informing members about AOPA products. Rachel has been with AOPA since 2021 and is a graduate of Salisbury University on Maryland's eastern shore.

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Topics: AOPA Pilot Gear, Community, AOPA Products and Services

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