PHOTO: Captain Stephanie Johnson and First Officer Dawn Cook make company history as the first female African-American pilot team to fly together. (Photo courtesy of Delta, via Dawn Cook's Facebook page.)
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, TravelPulse is celebrating the all-women flight crews who are making history while challenging the view that airline pilots are a traditionally male-dominated career choice.
Delta Airlines made company history last week, when two female, African American pilots helmed a flight from Detroit to Las Vegas.
First Officer Dawn Cook had the idea for the teamed-up duo when she learned Stephanie Johnson, who became Delta’s first African-American captain in 2016, would be travelling from a nearby airport.
Johnson, who was also the first African-American pilot for Northwest (which merged with Delta in 2008), has said there are too few women pilots.
“There are so few women in this profession and too many women who still don’t think of it as a career option,” said Johnson in an interview on the Delta website. “When I was hired by Northwest Airlines, there were 12 African-American women airline pilots in the country at the major airlines, and I knew all of their names.
Air India is striving to break a Guinness World Record this week, with its first-ever all female crew to span the globe. The flight departed Delhi on February 27, bound for San Francisco on a transpacific route, and has returned home on Friday crossing the Atlantic, thereby fully circumnavigating the globe.
Not only was the flight piloted by an all-female crew made up of Captains Sunita Narula, Kshamta Bajpai, Indira Singh and Gunjan Aggarwal, but it also featured an all-female cabin crew, ground crew and check-in staff. Even the engineers who certified the flight and the air traffic controllers who cleared the flight for takeoff and landing were women. Air India is celebrating International Women’s Day by launching a number of similar flights domestically.
Royal Brunei Airlines
Of course, no story about all-female flight crews would be complete without a mention of last year’s historic Royal Brunei flight with three female pilots, Captain Sharifah Czarena, First Officer Sariana Nordin and First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem, at the helm. The story is particularly compelling when considering the Brunei-originating flight landed in Saudi Arabi, where women are still not allowed to drive a car.
The flight was completed last February, just three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain for a Southeastern Asia flag carrier.
“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the U.K.-based captain, according to an article in The Guardian.