An American Airlines flight has made history. To honor Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license, the company embarked on the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars Tour to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her achievement.
The flight’s onboard crew consisted of all Black women in every role, from the pilots, customer service representatives, and Flight Attendants to the Cargo team members and the aviation maintenance technician—a first in the airline’s 96-year existence. Coleman’s great niece, GiGi Coleman, hosted the flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Phoenix.
“My great-aunt received her license two years before Amelia Earhart,” shared GiGi, according to CBS News. “She wasn’t in the history books. No one knew about her.”
The flight and celebration of Coleman’s legacy were intended to continue the airline’s mission of diversifying the flight deck. Noting that Black women have been drastically underrepresented in the aviation industry, especially as pilots, representing less than 1% in the commercial airline industry, American Airlines hopes its American Airlines Cadet Academy can help fill the void.
Bessie Coleman was accepted at the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France, and received her international pilot’s license on June 15, 1921. According to the National Women’s History Museum, she performed the first public flight by an African American woman in 1922.
In 1926, she was the passenger on a test flight that had a tragically fatal ending, claiming the life of Coleman and a mechanic named William Wills, who was piloting the plane.