Women have always been involved in aviation, whether it was behind the scenes supporting the efforts of others, or taking on the challenges of piloting and taking risks with experimental aircraft - to taking their rightful place in space exploration. Today, women work in all fields of aviation. They're commercial and military pilots, astronauts, flight engineers, mechanics, and the lost goes on.
Oakland Aviation proudly displays the photos and history of many women aviators including the following -
- In 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first female African-American pilot. Because of the discrimination in the United States towards women as pilots and Bessie's race, Bessie moved to France and learned to fly at the most famous flight school in France--the Ecole d'Aviation de Freres Caudron. Bessie returned to the United States and pursued a barnstorming career, including a period in Oakland, until her death in 1926 in an air crash. (Photo courtesy of the Port of Oakland Archives)
- On March 16, 1929, Louise Thaden made her bid for the women's endurance record from Oakland Municipal Airport, CA, in a Travel Air, and succeeded with a flight of 22 hours, 3 minutes.
- On May 21, 1937, Amelia Earhart departed from Oakland with navigator Fred Noonan to begin their flight around the world. They had completed over two-thirds of the distance when her plane disappeared without a trace in the central Pacific Ocean.
- Ms. Earhart sits atop her airplane shortly after landing in Oakland on January 12, 1935. Only 18 hours 16 minutes after departing Honolulu, she became the first woman to fly solo from Hawaii to the United States mainland. Photo courtesy of Oakland Public Library.
Katherine Sui Fu Cheung
- In 1931, Ruth Nichols broke three major women's records: altitude, speed and distance, although she failed in her attempt to cross the Atlantic, injuring her back, and even saw her plane go up in flames the day after breaking the women's distance record with her flight from Oakland, California, to Louisville, Kentucky.
- Her dream of being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic was shattered when Amelia Earhart achieved that feat in May, 1932
- Katherine Cheung became the first Chinese American woman to be a licensed pilot.
- Cheung was later inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum enshrined her as America's first Asian American aviatrix.
Visit the Oakland Aviation Museum to learn more about these,
and other brave women, and their contributions to aviation.