Women - flying high!

By Lubna Khalid
Tue, 12, 15

You! takes a look at some of the famous female pilots from around the world...

You! takes a look at some of the famous female pilots from around the world...

It was five years after the historic flight of the Wright Brothers in December 1903, that the enterprising and daring women started flying planes. Although Therese Peltier of France became the first woman to pilot an aircraft, it was Baroness Raymonde de la Roche of France who has the honour of receiving the pilot licence. Harriet Quimbly became the first licensed American female pilot in 1911and was awarded ticket No. 37. She also became the first woman to fly from Dover, England across the English Channel and landed at Hardelot, France. In 1910 Blanche Stuart Scott of USA became the first woman to solo an airplane. The list doesn’t end here. This week, You! takes a look at some of the famous female pilots from around the world ...

Baroness Raymonde de Laroche

This Paris-born daughter of a plumber went on to change history in 1910 as the first woman to receive a pilot’s license. The actress-turned-aviatrix took to the sky numerous times and earned herself the title of baroness in the process. She learned to fly in 1909 and in 1910, she received ticket No. 36.

De Laroche, also an accomplished balloonist and engineer, cheated death on more than one occasion. In 1919, while attempting to become the first professional female test pilot, de Laroche’s experimental aircraft crashed killing the baroness along with her co-pilot. She was 36 at that time.

Bessica Raiche

On October 13, 1910, Raiche became the first American woman to make a solo flight in an aircraft. Raiche’s homemade, Wright Brothers-inspired aircraft was constructed in the living room of her home. She used just silk, piano wire and bamboo to make it, aided by her husband.

 Amelia Earhart

Aviator Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. In 1923, Earhart, became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license. She had several notable flights, becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, as well as the first person to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific. In 1937, she mysteriously disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe from the equator. Earhart was legally declared dead in 1939.

Lady Mary Bailey

Lady Mary Bailey of Ireland earned her pilot’s license in 1926 and immediately flew the Irish Sea. She became the first woman to qualify for a ‘blind-flying’ certificate (instrument rating). Two years later she left London on a solo flight to Cape Town, South Africa. She returned solo via the west coast of Africa.

Amy Johnson

Britain’s most famous aviatrix, Amy Johnson, was born on 1st July 1903, in Hull, Yorkshire. Her flying career began at the London Aeroplane Club in the winter of 1928-29. Her first important achievement, after flying solo, was to qualify as the first British-trained woman ground engineer, the only woman in the world to do so at that time.

In May 1930, she set off alone from Croydon on 5 May 1930, and landed in Darwin on 24 May, a flight distance of 11,000 miles. She was the first woman to fly alone to Australia from England. It was an epic journey that made headlines all over the civilized world. After her commercial flying ended with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Amy joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, a pool of experienced pilots who were ineligible for Royal Air Force (RAF) service. Her flying duties consisted of ferrying aircraft from factory airstrips to RAF bases. It was on one of these routine flights on 5 January 1941, that Amy crashed into the Thames estuary and was drowned; her body was never recovered.

Jacqueline Cochran

The one-time Saks Fifth Avenue beautician born as Bessie Lee Pittman in 1906 held more distance, altitude and speed records than any other pilot, male or female, at the time of her death in 1980. She received her pilot’s license after only three weeks of instruction. Jacueline was instrumental in recruiting and training women to fly noncombat aircraft during World War II. Cochran was the only woman to compete in the 1937 Bendix race, the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic (1941), the first female pilot to break the sound barrier (1953), the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier, the first female president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (1958-1961) and the first pilot to fly above 20,000 feet without an oxygen mask. She was also the first female pilot to run for Congress.

 Emily Howell Warner

In 1976, at 36 Denver-based pilot Emily Howell Warner became the first female to command a major American passenger flight when Frontier Airlines made the bold move of placing her in the captain’s seat. After earning her captain’s wings with Frontier, Warner went on to fly a Boeing 737 for the United Postal Service and later became an examiner for the FAA. In 1974, she became the first female member of the Air Line Pilots Association and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

Beverly Burns

On July 18, 1984, during a transcontinental People Express flight from Newark to Los Angeles, Baltimore-born Beverly Burns went down in history as the first female pilot to command a Boeing 747. This game-changing feat garnered Burns the Amelia Earhart Award the following year. In addition to her duties as captain, Burns, an erstwhile American Airlines flight attendant, also served as a baggage handler, gate agent, dispatcher and avionics trainer while with People Express. By the time she retired in 2008, Burns had logged a total 25,000 hours of flight time and had piloted not only the Boeing 747, but also the Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777 and a variety of McDonnell-Douglas commercial aircraft.

On the national front...

Flying was considered a guy thing, a male prerogative, especially in Pakistan. Well, things took a new turn on the 12th of July 1959, as Shukriya Khanum became the first Pakistani woman to gain Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). However, she never served PIA as a pilot. A book titled ‘Pakistan’ published by Stacey International, London, says that Shukriya Khanum was the first Pakistani woman to fly a PIA aircraft. The book doesn’t specifically state if she was first woman pilot in PIA. It’s quite possible that during her career with PIA as ground instructor, Shukriya at some stage got the opportunity to manoeuvre PIA aircraft on training flight with instructor pilots and student pilots on board.

The first two women to serve the national airlines as pilots for the first time in the history of Pakistan were Maliha Sami and Ayesha Rabia in 1990. Maliha became the first Pakistani woman pilot to operate a scheduled PIA Fokker F-27 flight as full-fledged First Officer on Karachi-Panjgur-Turbat-Gwadar sector.

Women in PAF

For 55 years after Pakistan’s birth, doors to PAF were closed to women who wanted to serve as pilots in their country’s air force. Women had been employed by Pakistan’s armed forces in non-combat roles only, such as the medical corps, and the PAF had remained all-male throughout its history. However, since 2003 women have been allowed to enrol in the aerospace engineering and other programmes of PAF Academy Risalpur, including fighter pilot training programmes.

Pakistan Air Force created history on March 30, 2006 when four females Saba Khan, Nadia Gul, Mariam Khalil and Saira Batool received their flying wings after three and a half years of intensive training, breaking into an all-male bastion of Pakistan’s armed forces.

Ayesha Farooq, born on August 24, 1987, is a female fighter pilot. Ayesha belonged to the city of Bahawalpur. She is one of the five women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force. Flight Lieutenant Ayesha Farooq, is the first of six female fighter pilots in the force to pass the final exams to qualify for battle. She now flies missions in fighter jet alongside her 24 male colleagues in Squadron 20.

Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar of Pakistan Air Force became the first female pilot to have died on a mission when a PAF trainer jet crashed near Kundian, Mianwali, recently. Flown by Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi and co-pilot Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar, the plane was on a routine operational training mission when it encountered an in-flight emergency during the final stages of the mission, according to a PAF statement.

Hats off to this daring soul who embraced shahadat for her country, and may our women pilot grow from strength to strength.

Tracey Curtis-Taylor

She is one aviatrix who is in the process of retracing Amy Jonson’s journey from Great Britain to Australia. In fact, Tracey recently visited Karachi on her way to Australia. The 53-year-old aviatrix is flying a vintage open cockpit biplane, Spirit of Artemis! Her journey will take her across 23 countries - spanning over 13000 miles - and will end in Australia. The journey started from Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, the UK. In Karachi, Tracey visited Dawood Public School, run under the auspices of Dawood Foundation. The students of Dawood School and other government schools gave a mind-blowing welcome to the noted aviatrix.