Many women learned to fly as teens!
Karlene Petitt has been flying for a major airline for years, but when she was 9, she was told she couldn’t fly because she was a girl. She made the commitment at that point to become a pilot. “At 13, I took my first flight in a 727, and looked into the cockpit and thought, “I can’t do that!” But I swallowed that fear and doubt, and decided one step at a time. I took my intro flight at 16 and the moment we lifted into the sky I thought, ‘And they’re going to pay me to do this?’ I was hooked!”
Captain Karen Kahn started flying at 19 and has been a pilot for Continental for more than 30 years. She has a great book that can help you decide if an airline career is for you and what you need to do to get there. Check out “Flight Guide for Success — Tips and Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot.”
From learning to fly at 16, Loren Bentley learned to take risks, have confidence, and make decisions quickly. Now, she’s a graduate student in bioengineering.
Captain Kristen Mansel soloed at 16. Today she pilots for an aviation company.
While learning to fly multi-engine airplanes, Karrie Shank, 20, is a college student and a flight instructor. She teaches guys older than she is.
Jen Harwood-Higgs started flying at age 10 and only two decades later, she’s jetting around in a Gulfstream. Fun!
When Fran Bera was 16, she had to confess to her parents that she had been skipping school to learn to fly. She had to convince them to allow her to solo. It was 1941. She has been flying ever since. With no trouble ever getting a job, she made her living flying for her entire career.
Jerrie Cobb learned to fly a bi-wing plane at age 12. By 16, she was barnstorming with a circus, and at 18, she was teaching others to fly. Besides setting four new world aviation records for speed, distance and absolute altitude, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the Amazon.
In 1991, Patty Wagstaff became the first woman in the history of the U.S. to capture the National Aerobatic Championship.
And then there’s the pioneering women of aviation:
Bessie Coleman was the first African American to fly an airplane and to earn an international pilot’s license. In 1921, she had to go to France to find an instructor willing to teach a black woman, but her drive to “amount to something” kept her going. She returned a celebrity called Queen Bess, breaking down prejudices.
And of course, we all know Amelia Earhart, a name synonymous with Woman Pilot. She was the 1st woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo, in 1932.
Evelyn Sharp had an airfield named after her because she was the youngest female commercial pilot in the nation at age 18.
The Marine Corps had to rethink their motto “We’re looking for a few good men” when Sara Deal came along. She became the U.S. Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1993. The United States Marine Corps’ first African American female pilot and America’s first African American female combat pilot is Vernice Armour. She now dedicates her time to tour the world encouraging people to breakthrough to their dreams. You go, FlyGirls!
Major Nicole Malachowski pursued her goal to be a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She soloed at 16 and she was the first female Thunderbird F-16 pilot!
Featured in the documentary “Speed and Angels,” Meagan shares her journey becoming a TomCat F-14 pilot. She loves flying fighter jets faster than the speed of sound, often at 2,485 km per hour. She says, “If you have the motivation, the drive to do it, you can. There are things you can do to overcome obstacles. I come from a family with no flying or military experience. You can overcome anything holding you back.”
And who’s the youngest female pilot? Victoria Van Meter was the youngest female ever to fly across the U.S. when she piloted a single-engine Cessna 172.
9-year-old Isilay Davaz, from Turkey, proves you’re never too young to fly.
She needs a boost to see over the nose of the airplane, but she loves the power of the skies.
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