American Airlines celebrated the 100-year legacy of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license, in a special way.
The airline honored Bessie’s legacy by hosting Gigi Coleman, the late pilot’s great niece, on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Phoenix that was operated by an all-Black female crew — from the pilot to flight attendants, to cargo team and maintenance technicians There were 36 women listed as members of the historic flight crew on American Airlines’ website.
“I am grateful for American Airlines to give us this opportunity to highlight my great aunt’s accomplishments in the field of aviation,” Gigi, who is also President of Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars, said in a video shared by the airline.
Captain Beth Powell added, “I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of the crew where we’re inspiring young girls, young girls of color, to see the various roles that these women play in every aspect to make this flight possible.”
The airlines’ Instagram also shared a video of the women gearing up for the flight.
“These women symbolize an empowering legacy,” the words on the video read. “100 years ago Bessie Coleman paved the way for this all-Black crew to soar! Thank you Bessie Coleman for breaking down barriers for Black women to continue to spread their wings in aviation.”
In a statement, the airline said it is “being intentional in its efforts to diversify the flight deck,” stating that Black women “have been notably underrepresented in the aviation industry, especially as pilots, representing less than 1% in the commercial airline industry .”
It added that through the American Airlines Cadet Academy, they are committed to “expanding awareness of and increasing accessibility to the pilot career within diverse communities.”
Additionally, the day after the historic flight, the pilots, cadets and members of the Bessie Coleman Foundation met with students at The Academies at South Mountain in Phoenix, to talk about careers in aviation, the video shared.
In 1921, Bessie became the first African American woman, and first woman of Native American descent, to hold a pilot’s license, per PBS. She performed at many air shows over the next five years before her tragic death.
Bessie died on April 30, 1926, in Jacksonville, Florida, the website reports. She was preparing for an air show when an unsecured wrench got caught in the control gears, forcing the plane to crash. Bessie, who was not wearing a seatbelt, Died at the age of 34.