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Women Pilots

“This is your captain and I’d like to welcome you aboard Flight…” How often have you heard the voice of this pre-flight announcement come from a woman? 


Like cruise ships, the percentage of planes that are captained by women is low. According to the Society of Women Airline Pilots, women constitute less than 6 percent of the airline pilot workforce in the United States. During this Women’s History Month, we want to recognize women around the world who are impacting the travel industry as pioneers and leaders in aviation. These women are breaking barriers and inspiring future generations to reach for the skies.


Imagine not being scheduled to work one day and by the end of that day, your name would be tied to an event that exemplifies the skill and bravery of modern female pilots. In 2018, that’s what happened to Captain Tammie Jo Shults when she swapped a shift with her husband, a fellow Southwest Airlines pilot. Captain Shults is heralded for keeping calm and decisive during the emergency landing of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 which had become badly damaged mid-flight. Her quick thinking and expertise saved the lives of 148 passengers and crew.

Not all pilots’ stories showcase dire circumstances. Some, instead, spotlight familial pride. Three Nigerian sisters, Mopelola, Oluwaseun, and Oluwafunmilayo Makinde have shattered stereotypes in their respective careers as plane and helicopter pilots. The sisters were inspired to become aviators after watching their father, Captain Wale Makinde, dedicate his life to the skies as a helicopter pilot. But it’s not just fathers who witness their children following in their footsteps. Some mothers get to see their legacy in action by steering planes right next to their daughters. On Mother’s Day 2023, United Airlines first officer Brooke Patterson VanHowe flew next to her mom, Captain Brenda Patterson, in the cockpit. It had been a dream of the younger pilot to fly with her mother since she took her very first flight lesson. 


Safely navigating the skies is a tremendous feat. Join us in celebrating the trailblazing women who are shaping the future of aviation. Their stories remind us that with passion, perseverance, and a pioneering spirit, anything is possible. 


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