Houston, TX (AFRICA NEWSWIRE) — In celebration of Pilots Day, African women pilots have made significant strides in aviation over the past five years. Despite being underrepresented in the industry, these women have shown that they are just as capable as their male counterparts.
According to a report by ABC News¹, there are currently less than 150 professional Black women pilots in the U.S. that hold airline transport pilot, commercial, military or certificated flight instructor certificates. However, this number is expected to grow as more women are encouraged to pursue careers in aviation.
In 2017, a Boeing 777 made African history when it flew five hours from Addis Ababa to Lagos, Nigeria with an all-female crew³. Captain Amsale Gualu piloted the plane, with the help of women cabin crew, check-in attendants, flight dispatchers and ground staff.
In addition to this historic flight, Refilwe Ledwaba has been teaching African women how to fly for years⁵. Ledwaba is South Africa’s first black woman to have flown for the South African Police Service and has been instrumental in encouraging more women to pursue careers in aviation.
Despite these successes, there is still much work to be done. According to Sisters of the Skies (SOS), a professional organization of Black women pilots founded in 2018², fewer than 1 percent of airline pilots in the United States are Black women. Women make up around 7 percent of U.S. pilots according to the FAA.
However, with continued support and encouragement from organizations like SOS and individuals like Ledwaba, African women pilots will continue to make strides in aviation.
¹: ABC News. (2020). Diversifying the flight deck: Less than 1% of US pilots are Black women. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/diversifying-flight-deck-us-pilots-black-women/story?id=72880810
²: Sisters of the Skies (SOS). (2021). About Us. https://www.sistersoftheskies.org/about-us
³: Good Governance Africa. (2018). Africa’s women in full flight. https://gga.org/africas-women-in-full-flight/
⁵: BBC News. (2018). The female pilot teaching African women to fly. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44764541
Source: Conversation with Bing, 4/26/2023
(1) Diversifying the flight deck: Less than 1% of US pilots are Black women …. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/diversifying-flight-deck-us-pilots-black-women/story?id=72880810.
(2) Africa’s women in full flight – Good Governance Africa. https://gga.org/africas-women-in-full-flight/.
(3) The female pilot teaching African women to fly – BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44764541.
(4) A New Generation of Black Women Pilots Takes to the Skies – AFAR. https://www.afar.com/magazine/a-new-generation-of-black-women-pilots-takes-to-the-skies.
(5) All-Black women crew operates American Airlines flight from … – CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/20/us/american-airlines-honors-bessie-coleman/index.html.
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