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American Airlines Fêtes Bessie Coleman’s 100th with a Special Flight

The all-Black, all-female crew worked together to make the day a special one

American Airlines.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman earning her pilot’s license, American Airlines put together a very special flight from DFW, situated in Coleman’s home state of Texas, to Phoenix, Arizona. In getting her ticket, Coleman became the first Black woman pilot in the world.

The all-Black, all-female crew on this flight included not only the flight and cabin crew, but also the ground crew. A special guest of the airline on the flight was Coleman’s grand-niece, Gigi Coleman.

In publicity surrounding the event, American admitted up front that we have a long way to go, even 100 years after Coleman’s achievement. Less than one percent of U.S. airline pilots are Black women, and American says that it is, “…being intentional in its efforts to diversify the flight deck,” an effort that, unfortunately, has inspired some degree of animosity from existing airline pilots, and not only for American’s efforts, but also for United Airlines’ AVIATE program, which is aiming to increase the numbers of historically underrepresented people in the flight deck.

Coleman’s back story should not go unnoticed. A young woman born into poverty in rural Texas, she followed her dream to fly. But unable to find any flight schools in the United States willing to admit her as a student, she had to go to France to get her rating. She returned to the States afterward and was a popular airshow performer for years before dying in a freak aircraft accident at the age of 34.

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