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Soaring Above: Honoring 5 Remarkable Women in Aviation

When most people think of women in aviation, the first name that comes to mind is often Amelia Earhart. While she did reach incredible heights – quite literally, she is only one of many women who have left their mark. 

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This May, CAU is paying tribute to the achievements of 5 women who have made a difference in the world of aviation. Their accomplishments are truly worth celebrating. 


1. Harriet Quimby (May 11, 1875 – July 1, 1912)

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Harriet Quimby is the first female pilot to be licensed in the United States. In fact, she was even licensed before Amelia Earhart! 

Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. This is what first got her name in history books. Unfortunately, while many in the aviation industry knew of her accomplishment, the sinking of the Titanic happened two days post-flight and took the headlines by storm. 

Prior to taking flight, she wrote screenplays. She wrote about aviation and encouraged women to enter the field. 


2. Katherine Cheung (December 12, 1904 – September 2, 2003)


China-born Katherine Cheung is listed as the first Asian aviatrix in the United States by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. She was dedicating her life to music at the Los Angeles Conservatory and the University of Southern California until one airplane ride changed all of that. 

Cheung flew with a relative who was a pilot – and knew right away she wanted to obtain her pilot’s license. She enrolled in flying lessons and became the first Asian-American female pilot in the United States. At the Beijing Air Force Aviation Museum, Cheung is known as “China’s Amelia Earhart.”

Rather than taking on long flights and other such challenges, Cheung found the most joy in aerobatics. Her creative side always had her leaning more toward competitive air races, aerobatics, and air shows than anything else. 


3. Bessie Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926)

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Bessie Coleman was the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license. 

After finding motivation in learning about World War I pilots, she had such a drive and desire to become a pilot herself. The problem was that women of color were not viewed very liberally in the United States which could impact her ability to fulfill her drive. 

What did she do? She learned how to speak French and moved to Paris where things were a bit different. 

After she obtained her pilot’s license on June 15, 1921, from Federation Aeronautique Internationale, Coleman moved back to the U.S. and began making a difference within the industry. While she did have fun performing at air shows, she also taught aviation to African Americans. 

Her dream was to open a flight school for African Americans, but she passed away too soon.


4. Bernice “Bee” Haydu (December 15, 1920 – January 30, 2021)

Bernice Haydu jumped headfirst into aviation classes once she finished high school. She was a part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), receiving training until March 1944. Haydu was one of the first females to fly military airplanes. 

Haydu has experienced some incredible honors and achievements, including: 

  • President of WASP from 1975 to 1978
  • Induction into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 2000
  • Induction into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2012
  • Received the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2014
  • Received an honorary doctorate degree from Vaughn College in 2015


5. Jeana Yeager (May 18, 1952)

Jeana Yeager is one of the most recent of our female trailblazers in the aviation industry. She worked as a draftsman and surveyor for a company focused on geothermal energy throughout Santa Rosa, California. Due to her line of work and close proximity to helicopters, her interest in them grew – enough to lead her to earn her private pilot’s license in 1980. 

It was not long after that she met brothers Dick and Burt Rutan at a Chino, CA airshow. Burt was an aircraft designer, Dick was a pilot, and Jeana came with her own skilled background. Together, they found a way to travel the world without having to stop. 

With the strategic design and creation, these three created what became known as the Rutan Voyager. This lightweight aircraft took them around the world in only 9 days, 3 minutes, and 44 seconds without ever having to stop to refuel. 

Yeager was presented with the Presidential Citizenship Medal by President Reagan, as well as the aviation industry’s prestigious Collier Trophy. 


Importance of Celebrating Women’s Achievements in Aviation

When it comes to women in aviation, the sky is the limit. Yet, despite the many inspiring females in the industry, their numbers remain disproportionately low. Aviation has always been – and still is – predominantly male. 

We celebrate women’s achievements and accomplishments in aviation in an attempt to balance the scales. There are more women today who choose a career in the field than ever before, but the numbers are still not enough. 

Many have discovered that those who have chosen this as a career had an early connection with flying. For those who have not, the idea of becoming a pilot just came up. 

This is why we celebrate. We bring awareness to the career, the rewards that it brings, and its accessibility for everyone. 


Now is the Time for Women to Join the Aviation Industry

Since we have made it to 2023 with women still being underrepresented in all aspects of the industry, there has been a strong drive to bring forth change. It is time. 

It is no secret that there is a growing need for pilots in the aviation industry today, as well as in the future. 

For those women who want to have a career working within this field, the time to get involved is now. Why? It is simple. There are more opportunities for women today than at any other time in history. 

California Aeronautical University makes it easy to get started in all types of aviation programs for those women who are interested. Whether in the air or on the ground, the aviation industry is calling. Will you answer? 

Apply today!

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