In celebration of the National Women’s History Month, we shall pay tribute to women who made their mark in the aviation industry, proving that women are just as capable as men in traversing the skies.

Since 1987, the month of March was designated as National Women’s History Month in the United States in order to recognize the contributions of women in different fields of expertise throughout history. Australia and the United Kingdom also have the same celebration every March while Canada holds it every October to commemorate the Persons Case, a case wherein the highest appellate court of Canada ruled that under the law females were, in fact, people.1

The National Women’s History Month is highlighted by the celebration of the International Women’s Day every 8th day of March. The United Nations first began celebrating the International Women’s Day in 1975, a milestone in the UN’s advocacy to advance the status of women worldwide and to affirm the principle of equality between men and women.2

In the Philippine context, Proclamation No. 227 series of 1988 mandated the observance of the month of March as Women’s Role in History Month. Women’s Week is celebrated every first month of March while Women’s Rights and International Peace Day is celebrated every March 8. 3


Women Pioneers in the Aviation Industry

Photo grabbed from Google.


The History of the National Women’s History Month

The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women led the quest to have a women’s month recognized. The group was primarily motivated by the desire to address the lack of mention of the contributions of women in American history textbooks during the 1970’s. In order to have women contributions recognized in the educational curriculum, this same group initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978 which was met with positive response. 4

The news about this “Women’s History Week” soon spread to other parts of the country and started gaining attention on a nationwide scale. Organizers of this celebration soon lobbied Congress and their efforts finally paid off when President Jimmy Carter declared the first week of March 1980 as the first National Women’s History Week. Seven years later, upon persistent lobbying by women’s rights advocates, a proclamation of the US Congress established the Women’s History Month.5


Women Pioneers in the Aviation Industry

Photo grabbed from Google.


Women in Aviation

In essence, the celebration of the National Women’s History Month is about recognizing the achievements of women and advocating equality between men and women. However, 31 years after the celebration of the first National Women’s History Month, there are still some industries that are undeniably male-dominated. One such industry is the aviation industry. As recent as 2015,  the International Society of Women Airline Pilots estimates that there are only about 4,000 women pilots worldwide or just three percent of a total of 130,000. 6

Despite the huge disparity in the number of male to female pilots, several women have made their mark in the aviation industry. And just like how the education task force of Sonoma County highlighted women contributions in history books, this article will highlight several women pioneers in the aviation industry.


Women Pioneers in Aviation (Foreign)


Amelia Earhart - Women Pioneers in the Aviation Industry

Amelia Earhart, photo grabbed from Google


Amelia Earhart

A native of Atchison, Kansas in the United States, Amelia Mary Earhart is one of the most famous aviatrixes of all time. Earhart is best known for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and for piloting an autogiro to a record-setting altitude of 18,415 feet (5,613 meters).7

While Earhart was primarily known for her achievements aboard aircraft, her brilliance extended beyond just aviation. She also encouraged other women to pursue their dreams of being a pilot and she served as a mentor to some women students when she affiliated with Purdue University.8 Earhart’s made her last flight in 1937 when she suddenly disappeared while traveling across the Pacific and was never found again.


Bessie Coleman - Women Pioneers in the Aviation Industry

Bessie Coleman, photo grabbed from Google


Bessie Coleman

Elizabeth Coleman defied racism in American aviation schools and went to France on her way to becoming the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license from Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.9

Upon acquiring her license, she specialized in stunt flying in France before coming back to the United States where she performed the first public flight by an African American woman on September 3, 1922. Known as an advocate for the participation of black people in aviation, Coleman sought to found a school for black aviators but she died in a plane crash during before she could establish the said school. 10


Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran, photo grabbed from Google


Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran was an accomplished flyer who held more speed, distance, and altitude records than any other flyer during her career, including being the first woman to break the sound barrier. 11

Cochran was also involved in military efforts as an aviatrix and she advocated the participation of women pilots in World War II. She proposed the idea of a women flying division to then-first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Though not readily accepted at first, the US military eventually considered Cochran’s idea and the decorated aviatrix eventually became the head of the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. 12


Filipina Pioneers in Aviation


Filipina Pioneers in Aviation

Photo grabbed from Google.


The Philippines also has its fair share of women pilots who became pioneers in the local aviation scene. These women are living proof that Filipinas can also excel in the skies.


Aimee Carandang

Captain Ma. Aurora Carandang Gloria, better known as Aimee Carandang, is the first Filipina commercial pilot. She also became the first female fully-fledged captain in the Philippines when he flew a Fokker 50 flight from Manila to Baguio under the flagship carrier in 1993.13


Brooke Castillo - Filipina Pioneers in Aviation

Brooke Castillo, photo grabbed from Google.


Brooke Castillo

Catherine Marie “Brooke” Castillo became the first Filipina to fly a commercial jet when she piloted a Philippine Airlines aircraft in 1996. Seven years later, she became the first Filipina to be named the captain of a jet aircraft for local carrier Cebu Pacific. The multi-talented Castillo is also a pianist, an athlete and a mentor to other Filipinas aspiring to be pilots.14


Monessa Catuncan - Filipina Pioneers in Aviation

Monessa Catuncan, photo grabbed from Google.


Monessa Catuncan

Captain Monessa Catuncan of the United States Air Force is the first ever Filipina to pilot an F-16 fighter aircraft, one of the most advanced fighter jets in the arsenal of the US Air Force. Born of Filipino immigrants, Catuncan graduated as a valedictorian from Mesquite High School and got her Aeronautical Engineering degree from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.15


Gisela Bendong - role of women in Philippine Aviation

Gisela Bendong, photo grabbed from Google.


The role of women in the future of Philippine Aviation

Just like the global trend in aviation, the ratio of male to female pilots in the Philippines is also disproportionate. Out of all pilots in the country, only two percent of them are female, according to data gathered by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in 2015.16

However, there’s still a glimmer of hope for aspiring women aviators as more and more women are becoming recognized in the various airlines in the Philippines. In March 2015, AirAsia offered a Manila-Davao route with an all-female flight and cabin crew in commemoration of Women’s Month.16

The aviation industry poses a great challenge for women who aspire to reach greater heights, literally and figuratively. But as shown by the exemplary aviatrixes featured in this article, if men can do it, women can do it too.



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