Celebrating the pioneering women who helped shape aviation | Airlines

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Women have played essential roles in aerospace since the early days of airplanes, helicopters, and space travel. Though they began piloting powered aircraft as early as 1908, their conquest of the skies was limited not only by the laws of physics but also by the laws of men. For a long time, women were often confined to private or supportive roles within the aviation industry.  

The situation remains bleak to this day. According to a 2021 study conducted by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA), women accounted for less than 6% of pilots globally. In the United States, the percentage of FAA-certified women airline pilots stood at just 4.9% in 2022. 

In the continuous fight to achieve gender equality in the aerospace industry, it is important to reflect on the tremendous efforts by women throughout history in shaping a more equal future. To commemorate International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8 each year, AeroTime has put together a selection highlighting some of the women who have made remarkable contributions to the aviation sector. 

Emma Lilian Todd, the inventor who saw her right to fly denied 

(Credit: Library of Congress)

Emma Lilian Todd was already an accomplished inventor when she became interested in aviation. She presented her first model aircraft at Madison Square Garden in 1906. Olivia Sage, widow of politician Russell Sage, was impressed by her work and decided to fund the design of her first real plane. Todd began her aviation career in 1908, when she opened America’s first Junior Aero Club to support the training of future female aviators. She applied for a pilot’s license to test her biplane, but the request was refused. Her aircraft was flown successfully by Didier Masson on November 7, 1910. Following the flight, she abandoned aeronautical designs. 

Thérèse Peltier, the first female passenger and pilot 

Thanks to her friend, the aviation pioneer Léon Delagrange, Peltier became interested in aviation….

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