Celebrating African Americans in Aviation

1900s

  • Emory Conrad Malick becomes first African American pilot, trained at the Curtiss Aviation School at North Island in 1912.
  • Eugene Jacques Bullard becomes first black fighter pilot in France (1917).

1920s

  • Bessie Coleman becomes first licensed female black pilot in the United States, licensed in France (1921).
  • James Herman Banning became the first black aviator to obtain a license from the U. S. Dept. of Commerce (1926).
  • William J. Powell establishes The Bessie Coleman Aero Club (1929).

1930s

  • First all-black air show in U.S. History takes place (1931).
  • Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical School provided instruction in aircraft mechanics to its first all-black class (1931).
  • Cornelius Coffey became the first African-American to earn both pilot's and mechanic's licenses (1931).
  • The Challenger Air Pilots' Association became Chicago's first black flying club (1931).
  • Frank Hammond sets the world record for the most parachute jumps in one day (thirteen)(1931).
  • William J. Powell earned his pilot's license at the Los Angeles School of Flight (1932).
  • James Herman Banning and Thomas C. Allen- a.k.a. "Flying Hobos"- become first black aviators to complete a transcontinental flight, completing the flight in 41 hours 27 minutes (1932).
  • Dorothy Darby became first black and first female professional parachute jumper (1932).
  • C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson, often called the "Father of Black Aviation" because of his training and mentoring of countless African American pilots, became the first African American to earn a transport, or commercial, pilot's license (1933).
  • C. Alfred Anderson and Dr. Albert E. Forsythe become first black pilots to complete a round-trip transcontinental flight from Atlantic City to Los Angeles (1933).
  • Janet Harmon Waterford Bragg, a licensed pilot, bought the first aircraft for the Challengers Air Pilots' Association. "Black Wings" by William J. Powell is published (1934).
  • Earl W. Renfroe became the first African American in Illinois, and only the third in the nation, to obtain a commercial pilot's license (1934).
  • Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., became the first black student to graduate from West Point in the 20th century (1936).
  • Willa Brown earned her pilot's license, making her the first African American woman to earn a US private pilot's license (1937).
  • Cornelius Coffey opens the Coffey School of Aeronautics (1937).
  • Grover C. Nash, the first black pilot to fly the mail for the US Postal Service, becomes a licensed pilot (1938).
  • National Airmen's Association, a nationwide organization for black aviators, is established in Chicago, Illinois (1939).
  • Willie "Suicide" Jones became world record-holder for the delayed parachute jump (1939).
  • Dale L. White and Chauncey E. Spencer complete a 3,000 mile round-trip flight from Chicago to Washington D.C. under the auspices of National Airmen's
  • Association and the Chicago Defender to dramatize the goal of wider black involvement in aviation (1939).
  • Black Americans gain admission into the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPT) (1939).

1940s

  • Executive Order 8802, which provided for full participation in defense programs regardless of race, is signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941).
  • The all-black 99th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Corps is activated (1941).
  • The first five black cadets to be commissioned as pilots of the Army Air Forces were graduated at the Tuskegee Army Air Field program (1942).
  • The 332nd Fighter Group at Tuskegee Air Field is activated (1942).
  • The 99th Fighter Squadron flew its first combat sortie over Pantelleria, an island near Sicily (1943).
  • Charles B. Hall became the first black fighter pilot to down an enemy aircraft (1943).
  • Maj. George D. "Spanky" Roberts assumed command of the 99th Fighter Squadron, succeeding Colonel Davis (1943).
  • Herbert Julian "Black Eagle of Harlem" establishes Black Eagle Airlines (1946).
  • Three years after the end of WWII, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which called for equal opportunity in the armed forces (1948).
  • The U.S. Air Force became the first armed service to integrate (1949).

1950s

  • Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became the first black general in the U.S. Air Force (1954).
  • Captain August Martin became the first African-American cargo pilot and Captain of a U.S. scheduled airline (1955).
  • Perry Young became the first black pilot hired by a commercial airline (1956).
  • Ruth Carol Taylor was hired by Mohawk Airlines as the first African-American stewardess in the United States (1958).

1960s

  • The New York State Commission against Discrimination faulted Capital Airlines for failing to hire Patricia Banks, an African-American woman who had been denied employment as a flight attendant despite meeting all job requirements (1960).
  • Vance A. Marchbanks Jr., a flight surgeon served on the flight team in Kano, Nigeria and played a key role in John Glenn's historic space flight in the Friendship 7 (1962).
  • Edward J. Dwight was nominated for the astronaut program, but was passed over when the final selection was made (1963).
  • The Supreme Court rules in favor of Marlon D. Green in the case "Green v Continental Airlines" and the refusal of his employment due to race, winning the right for African-Americans to be hired at U.S. airlines (1963).
  • Marlon D. Green became the first African American pilot hired by a major passenger airline in the United States (1964).
  • Captain David E. Harris became one of the first black pilots to be employed by a major airline when he joined American Airlines (1964).
  • Joan Dorsey became the first African-American flight attendant hired to work for American Airlines (1964).
  • Negro Airmen International, Inc. (NAI) was launched by a group headed by the late Edward A. Gibbs, Leslie Norris, Horace Noble, William Broadwater, Ulysses "Rip" Gooch, and Chief Anderson (1967).
  • Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. became first African American astronaut, though never made it to space (1967).

1970s

  • Robert Ashby was the only Tuskegee Airman to become a pilot for a scheduled commercial airline (1973).
  • Captain Lloyd Newton became the first black pilot to join the elite U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds (1974).
  • Black Flight Attendants of America, a service organization whose goal is to promote careers in aviation as well as celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of African-Americans in aviation past and present, was created (1974).
  • General Daniel "Chappie" James, a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars becomes America's first black four-star general (1975).
  • The Organization of Black Airline pilots is established to help motivate youth to become educationally prepared for life and increases minority participation in aviation through exposure, training, mentoring, and scholarships (1976).
  • Jill E. Brown Hiltz became the first African-American female pilot for a major airline (1978).
  • Second Lieutenant Marcella A. Hayes became the first African American woman pilot in the US Armed Forces.
  • Frank E. Petersen became the first African-American Marine Corps general (1979).

1980s

  • Guion S. Bluford Jr. became first African American to enter space (1983).
  • Barrington Irving became the first African American, first Jamaican, and youngest person to fly solo around the world (1986).
  • Dr. Mae C. Jemison became the first African-American female astronaut in NASA history (1988).

1990s

  • Captain Patrice Clark-Washington became the first African-American to become a captain for a major airline, and was one of the first black women to graduate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, with an aeronautical degree (1994).
  • The Bessie Coleman Foundation is established by a group of African American female pilots, and other African American aviation professionals and enthusiasts (1995).

2000s

  • Daniel James III, son of Gen. "Chappie" James, became director of the Air National Guard (2002).
  • Kenny Roy became the youngest African-American pilot licensed to fly a plane on his own in the world at age 14 (2004).
  • Lt. Jeanine McIntosh Menze became the first African-American woman to successfully complete flight training and be assigned as a pilot in the U.S. Coast Guard (2005).
  • Atlantic Southeast created aviation history by having the first all-female African American crew in United States history (2009).
  • Charles F. Bolden is appointed the head of NASA by President Obama (2009).
  • Kimberly Anyadike becomes the youngest Black female to pilot across the country at age 15 (2009).

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