In honor of the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license, American Airlines operated a flight out of Dallas with an all-Black, all-female crew.
From the pilots and flight attendants to cargo team members and aviation maintenance technicians, the women operated and took charge of every aspect of the flight from Dallas to Phoenix. The airline hosted the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars tour last week to celebrate the anniversary of Coleman earning her pilot’s license in 1921.
“She bravely broke down barriers within the world of aviation and paved the path for many to follow,” the airline said in a news release.
To honor Coleman’s legacy, her great-niece, Gigi Coleman, was hosted by American Airlines on the flight, according to the airline.
“I am grateful for American Airlines to give us this opportunity to highlight my great aunt’s accomplishments in the field of aviation,” Gigi said in a video posted by American Airlines.
The airlines said it is being intentional in its efforts to diversify the flight deck, as Black women have been “notably underrepresented in the aviation industry” — Black women currently represent less than 1% in the commercial airline industry.
Coleman, born in Atlanta, Texas, in 1892, got her international pilot’s license in June 1921 by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, according to PBS.
Coleman used her influence in the following years to encourage other African Americans to fly — even refusing to perform air shows at locations that would not admit African Americans.
Coleman died on April 30, 1926, at age 34, preparing with another pilot for an air show that was to take place that day. At 3,500 feet, an unsecured wrench got caught in the control gears, causing the plane to crash, PBS reported. Coleman, who was not wearing a seatbelt, fell to her death.