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A recent American Airlines flight made history with the first all-Black female flight crew in the carrier’s 96-year history.
American Airlines Flight 372, taking off from Phoenix, AZ and landing in Dallas, TX, honored Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to receive a pilot’s license, with the all-Black female crew.
The flight celebrates the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman earning her pilot’s license in Europe, since no private or governmental flight programs would accept Black people in the U.S. at that time.
Coleman’s great niece, Gigi Coleman, was on the American Airlines Flight 372 to celebrate the historic event.
“I think she would’ve been really amazed and in awe. I was in awe, and this is 2022,” Gigi Coleman told CBS News, who runs Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars, an after-school program aimed at inspiring kids, especially young people of color, to take flight.
“My great-aunt received her license two years before Amelia Earhart,” she said. “She wasn’t in the history books. No one knew about her.”
There are fewer than 150 Black women airline pilots, less than 1% of all pilots, in the U.S., according to Sisters of the Skies, an organization of Black women airline pilots.
HBCU Training Black Commercial Pilots
One private Historically Black College (HBCU) is making major moves to change that disparity.
Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens remains one of the few HBCUs with an aviation program, and with the help of a local Black inventor, the university is helping young, Black achievers make their dreams of flight a reality.
“I hope there are people, companies that will support us,” 20-year-old FMU student Tremaine Johnson told NBC News. “I really want this. I’m determined to not let the resources be a problem. But they are.”
“But the biggest problem is that flight school is expensive,” William McCormick, chairman of Florida Memorial University’s board of trustees told NBC News. A flight school program may cost a student anywhere from $70,000 to over $90,000, depending on experience.
“A lot of kids who don’t look like me can come to the program because they can afford to pay flight time, McCormick added. “We have to fix that so our students from an HBCU can join the program with ease, too. We want to be a pipeline for Black pilots just like we did with teachers and principals. But we need partnerships with people who care.”