First Licensed Women Pilots (per country)
On March 8th of 1910, a French lady named Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman to obtain a pilot license worldwide. She was first but certainly not last.
Raymonde De Laroche (1882 – 1919), an experienced French balloonist, was the first woman to earn a pilot license worldwide on March 8, 1910.
Born Elise Raymonde Deroche, daughter of a plumber, Elise became an actress and used the stage name "Raymonde de Laroche". After riding in an airplane, she decided to add “pilot” to her list of accomplishments and jumped at French aviator Charles Voisin’s offer to teach her to fly. On October 29, 1909, just after her twenty-third birthday, Raymond met Voisin at the Chalons airfield where he and his brother, Gabriel, built and flew their own planes.
The Voisin was a one-seater with no room for both student and instructor. The pupil had to sit in the plane and listen to the instructor shout orders from the ground. Raymonde was instructed to drive the plane down the open field. She was not, under any circumstances, allowed to lift off. However, she had a mind of her own. After her first taxi around the field, she knew she was ready for take-off. Against her instructor’s orders, she opened up the throttle, raced down the airstrip and rose about fifteen feet in the air.
In 1919, Raymonde set two women's altitude records, one at 15,700 feet (4,800 m); and also the women's distance record, at 201 miles (323 km).
Learn more about the Voisin brothers and their life's work, visit the website of "the friends of Gabriel Voisin".
Born in Tournai, Belgium, Hélène Dutrieu (1877 – 1961) left school at the age of 14 to earn a living. She became a speed track cycling world champion, a stunt cyclist, a motorcycle stunt rider, an automobile racer and stunt driver before becoming interested in aviation.
On November 25, 1910, she became the first Belgian woman to receive a pilot license. She reputedly was the first woman pilot to fly with a passenger. She set numerous records such as longest distance, highest altitude and longest time aloft. In late 1910, she was the first winner of the Femina Cup. Two years later, in 1912, she was the first woman to fly a seaplane.
Born in Michigan, Harriet Quimby (1875 – 1912) became a successful journalist and screenwriter before she becamed interested in aviation in 1910.
On August 1, 1911, she was the first woman in the United States to receive a pilot license. Less than one year later, on April 16 1912, Quimby took off from Dover, England, en route to Calais, France and made the flight in 59 minutes, landing about 25 miles (40 km) from Calais on a beach in Hardelot-Plage, Pas-de-Calais. It was April 16, 1912, and she had become the first woman to fly the English Channel.
Lidia Zvereva (1890-1916) was the first Russian woman to get a fixed-wing pilot's licence when she received licence number 31 on August 10, 1911 at the Russian Aviation Association Flying School at Gatchina. On May 19, 1914, she looped a Morane, reportedly the first woman to do so.
In 1913, thanks to a military contract, Lidia Zvereva and her husband,Vladimir Slusarenko, organized an assembly plant of Farmans and Moranes aircraft. By the summer of 1914, productivity was one-two aircraft/month. However, by 1918, the factory closed due to severe disruptions of supplies and manpower created by the revolutions.
On August 29, 1911, Hilda Hewlett (1864 – 1943) became the first woman in the UK to earn a pilot's licence when she received certificate No.122 from the Royal Aero Club after completing the test in her biplane. Hewlett also taught her son, making him the first male pilot taught to fly by his mother.
She was also a successful early aviation entrepreneur. She created and ran the first flying school in the United Kingdom. She also created and managed a successful aircraft manufacturing business which produced more than 800 aeroplanes and employed up to 700 people.
Before she was fascinated with flying, Amelie Hedwig Beese (1886-1925) started a career as an artist, studying in Stockholm as a sculptor.
She got her licence on her birthday, Septempter 13, 1911 and became the first woman in Germany to earn a pilot's licence. In January 1912, Beese opened a flying school at the Johannisthal's airfield with financial assistance from her mother. That same year, she used her early training in architecture to design and patent a collapsible aircraft.
Beatrix de Rijk (1883 - January 18 1958) grew up in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. At some point she came to live in Paris and took flying lessons at Hanriot in Betheny. On October 6 1911, she received pilot No. 652 issued by the Aero Club de France. She was born in a wealthy family and could buy a private plane. She flew them a few airshows.
At the beginning of the First World War she offered her services to the Dutch and French air force, but both refused. She then stopped flying. She got married during the war and left with her husband to live in the Dutch East Indies. During the Second World War, her only son was killed and her husband disappeared without trace in Aceh.
Božena Laglerová (December 11, 1888 - October 8, 1941) was born in Prague. In Germany, she used the name "Lagler". She was Hans Grade's first female student in Bork, Germany where she trained in 1911. In July of that year, she crashed and went to Prague to recover. She became the first woman licensed by the Austrian Aero Club, as license number 37 on October 10, 1911. On October 19, 1911, she became the second woman licensed by Germany, as license number 125.
Ljuba Galantchikova had a short movie (cinema) career before becoming a pilot, under the name of Millie Moore. Her nickname was Pushka. She learned to fly from a Frenchman, Leon Letort, probably at Gashinka (St. Petersburg), and she earned Russian license number 56 on 19 November 1911. She later flew in a Morane with him from Johannisthal (Berlin) to Paris, while Letort was returning to Paris after his non-stop-flight from Paris to Johannisthal.
She met Anthony Fokker in 1912 at the Johannisthal-Berlin Airfield and they became friends. She challenged the altitude record of Melli Beese, and then reached an altitude of 2200 meters in a Fokker with a 100 horsepower motor (also carrying a passenger, whose name is not known). She ended up working the Terenchenko factory, where she received an aircraft. In 1917, she also joined the Imperial Air Force, serving in the 26th Corps Reconnaissance Squadron, where she flew as an observer.
After the war, she became a taxi driver in New York City.
Lilly Steinschneider, Countess of Coudenhove-Kalerg (January 13, 1891 – March 28, 1975) was born in Budapest. She decided to become a pilot at the international aviation contest which took place in Budapest during the summer of 1910. She studied aviation at Wienerneustadt. Her teacher was the renown aviation pioneer Karl Illner. She flew an Etrich Taube. She received the Number 4pilot license on August 15, 1912.
She was immediately hired by an Austrian aviation firm. She took part in various domestic and Austrian aviation contests and airshows. She got married in 1914 and moved to her husband's residence in Czechia (nowadays Czech Republic). She quit aviation. She lived a secluded life in the aftermath of WWII in the South of France.
Born in Milan into a wealthy bourgeois family, Rosina Ferrario (1888 - 1959) showed an early interest in sports, and especially mountain climbing. She learned to drive a car, and pedalled to her flying lessons on a bicycle. She got her license on the 3rd of January 1913 and became the first Italian woman to be licensed.
During the First World War, she attempted to organize a 'Women Aviators Volunteer Squadron" to retrieve wounded soldiers from the front by air, but the idea was summarily rejected by the Italian High Command, which could not conceive placing women so close to the shooting. She was therefore obliged to restrict her activities to organizing and participating in flying clubs, and did much to encourage other women to pursue aviation.
Elena Caragiani-Stoenescu (May 13, 1887 - March 29 1929) was the daughter of doctor Caragiani and Zenia Radovici. She was interested in flying and considered flying as a field specialist like her brother, Lieutenant Andrei Popovici.
Her first flight took place in 1912, riding with her teacher, Mircea Zorileanu, holder of a French pilot license. She entered the League of Aviation, a flying school run by Prince George Valentin Bibescu, as the only female student, which aroused indignation. Her teachers, Constantine Fotescu Captain Capsa and Mircea Nicu Zorileanu, taught her on "Farman", "Wright" or "Santos Dumont" airplanes. Upon completing the courses, she applied to receive a pilot license at the Ministries of Education and Civil Defense but her application was rejected by Spiru Haret and General Crainiceanu. She decided to go to France. She joined the School of Civil Aviation of Mourmelon le Grand led by Roger Sommer. She passed all the exams and received her pilot license when she was 27 years old.
Her home country did not allow her to participate to airshows. She became a reporter for a major French daily newspaper, traveling to the Caribbean, Mexico or South America, then a war correspondent for Press Trust of Mexico. When Romania entered the war, in 1916, Elena asked to participate as a pilot to defend the country or to carry wounded in hospitals. Her request was denied. She became a Red Cross nurse in a hospital in Bucharest.
After the withdrawal of troops, she and her sister established a health clinic in Tecuci. She met and married Virgil Stoenescu, a lawyer, with whom she settled in Paris. She continued to work as a journalism in France, Mexico, USA, countries in Africa or Asia, and specialized in reporting on air events.
Else Haugk (last name also sometimes spelled Haugh), a Swiss, travelled to Gemany to take flying lessons. She earned a german pilot license number 785 on June 6th 1914. She piloted a Rumpler Taube at the Hansa Flying Works.
Amalia Celia Figueredo (February 18, 1895 - 1985) settled down in the environs of the Villa Lugano aerodrome in 1914. She became acquainted with the Frenchman Paul Castaibert, aviator and builder of airplanes, with whom she made her first flight. She changed her previous vocational plans, turning them completely upside down, when she enrolled in a pilot training course taught by Castaibert in a Castaibert-Anzani monoplane of 25 HP. Soon she advanced to the San Fernando school of aviator Marcel Paillete, beginning a new course in a 50 HP Farman-Gnome biplane. Months later, on the 6th of September, Amalia was ready to take the examination to earn her pilot license. However, she had bad luck and during the test suffered an accident, happily without injuries. On October 1 1914, she tried again, this time passing the test with distinction.
The exhibitions carried out by this novel aviatrix were numerous. The old National Race course, the field of the Sportiva Argentina in Palermo and the aerodrome of Villa Lugano, were scenes of her aerial demonstrations, earning for her both admiration and popularity. In June of 1915, she initiated a flight between Buenos Aires and her native city, Rosario, where she carried out several flights in a Farman airplane. Upon her return to Buenos Aires, her aerial activities were reduced considerably due to her marriage to Alexander Carlos Pietra, who persuaded her to abandon her aeronautical career.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary (October 1, 1964) of her obtaining her license, the Ministry of Aeronautics, in the person of Brigadier Carlos Armanini, at that time Air force commander-in-chief, awarded Amalia Celia Figueredo de Pietra the honorary designation of Military pilot. On January 21, 1970, by decree of Law 18,559, the title of Precursora de la Aeronáutica Argentina was conferred on her.
Teresa de Marzo (1903 - 1986) decided to become a pilot at seventeen years of age. When
she revealed her desire, she faced strong opposition from family, immigrants from Naples, Italy, especially her father who wanted to see her daughter married.
On April 8, 1922, she impressed her examiners when she performed all the required maneuvers to obtain her pilot license perfectly using a Caudron G-3 airplane and earned pilot license #76.
In 1923, she and her husband to be, Fritz Roesler, opened the Ypiranga flight school. However, within a year, the flight school was closed and all the aircraft confiscated during the revolution of 1924.
After working two years to get her license in the male-dominated Japaneses society, Tadashi Hyodo was the first Japanese woman to earn a pilot license.
Born in Pyongyang's Sangsugu Village, Korea, Kwon Ki-ok (1910 - 1988) entered the Republic of China Air Force School in Yunnan in 1923. She was the only woman in the first graduating class of 1925 and became the first Korean woman to hold a pilot license. She was instrumental in the founding of the Republic of Korea Air Force.
Gladys Sandford (1891-1971) was the first woman in New Zealand to gain an a pilot license (No. 18). However, she did not pursue aviation as a career. Instead, she became a well known motorist.
Millicent Bryant (1878-1927) became the first Australian woman to be earn a pilot license on March 28, 1927. Unfortunately, she drowned that same year in a ferry accident on Sydney Harbor.
Eileen Vollick (1908-1968) who became the first Canadian woman to obtain a pilot's license in March 1928.
Born in Wiarton, Ontario, she became a textile analyst at the Hamilton Cotton Company before starting flying lessons in 1927. She had to use pillows to see out of the cockpit of the ski-equipped Curtiss JN-4 biplane. After passing her flight test, she flew in the U.S. and Canada, often demonstrating aerobatic flying. Shortly afterwards she became Mrs James Hopkin, moved to New York State and raised a family.
On November 24 1928, Maria was the first Spanish woman to earn a pilot license. Very little is known about her.
Ruthy Tu becomes first woman pilot in the Chinese Army
At the age of 26, Lotfia ElNadi became the first Egyptian female to earn a pilot license in Egypt. In order to achieve her dream - in a time when Egyptian women were fighting to obtain equal rights - Lotfia informed her father that she was attending a study group, when in fact she was attending flying lessons twice a week. When her mother discovered her secret desire to learn to fly, she decided to help her daughter achieve that goal. It is said that her first time in a plane was when she worked as a receptionist at Cairo airport and she hid in a 2-seater plane, just to experience what it was like to fly.
She has been decorated with medals from a number of Presidents and notaries around the world. Her respect, determination, and ambition gained her the status as a Women's Equal Rights Advocate in the Middle East and an inspiration to the rest of women around the world. When asked why she wanted to fly, she replied "I learned to fly because I love to be free."
Lotfia never married, and lived in Lausanne, Switzerland most of her life.
Sarla Thakral (1916 - ) was only 21 year old when she became the first Indian woman to earn a pilot license. Her husband P. D. Sharma was the initiator behind that. His family had nine pilots already and they were all supportive of the decision.
However, while she was working towards the commercial pilot license, her husband died in a crash in 1939. She was a widow at 24. She abandoned her plans to become a commercial pilot and became a successful watercolor painter.
Sabiha Gökçen (1913 -2001) was one of the eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk the founder and first president of Turkey. Her family name, Gökçen, means 'belonging or relating to the sky' in Turkish. She was introduced to aviation during the opening ceremony of the Türkkuşu (Turkishbird) Flight School. She became the first Turkish woman pilot to earn a pilot license in 1936. Later that year, she attended the Air Force Academy to become the first female military pilot of Turkey.
She improved her skills by flying bomber and fighter planes. In 1937, she took part in the military operation against the Dersim rebellion and became the world's first female air force combat pilot. Throughout her career in the Turkish Air Force, Sabiha flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions.
In 1939, Reza Shah, after returning from an official visit to Turkey ordered the founding of the Iranian Aero Club. Effat Tejaratchi (1917 - 1999), who at the age of 22 had a burning desire to fly, was the first to join the club. She became the first Iranian woman to be earn a pilot license using a Tiger Moth aircraft.
Touria Chaoui was born in 1936 in Fez. From a young age, Touria had a passion for anything that flew, sensitive to the slightest sound of an airplane flying over the medina of Fez.
This passion intensified until it was time to take flying lessons. The only flight school was based Tit Mellil in the region of Casablanca. Morocco was under French protectorate at the time, therefore, it was difficult to put a young Moroccan girl in this school, reserved for the elite French living in Morocco. Touria's luck was her father: Abdelwahed Chaoui, who was one of the first Moroccan French-speaking journalist, but more importantly, was a pioneer in the promotion of Moroccan theater.
French director Andre Zwobada decided to shoot a film in Fez, The Seventh Gate in 1948. It offered Abdelwahed Chaoui a leading role along with Georges Marchal and Maria Casares. Touria also had a role in this film; she was then thirteen years old. Such an environment gave Touria free rein to pursue her vocation as an aviatrix.
In 1952, Touria became the first Moroccan aviatrix at the age of sixteen. She was actually the first aviatrix from the Arab world. Newspapers worldwide have reported the event. Touria received the congratulations of all women's organizations. She received a signed photo of Jacqueline Auriol, test pilot, and niece of French President, Vincent Auriol. King Mohammed V of Morocco received her at the Palace to congratulate her.
On 1 March 1956, she was murdered at the family home. She was only 19 years.
Maryse Ben Haim was born in Algiers in 1928. Both her parents were Jewish; her father, Moses Ben Haim, was Berber while her mother, Sultana Stora, was Andalusian. At the beginning of the war, she was studying at the Lycee Fromentin in Algiers. She had to leave because of her origins during the Vichy regime. She joined the Young Communist underground in Algiers. The Allied landings in Algeria took place November 8, 1942. The following year, Maryse Ben Haim resumed classes and trained to be a teacher while pursuing her studies in philosophy at the University of Algiers.
In 1946, she wanted to enroll in the Aero Club of Algiers, but her father was against it. Still a minor (the majority was at 21 years old at the time), she had to wait three years then another two years for her registration to become effective. After 15 hours, she got her first degree and after 30 hours, the second.
To pay for her flying lessons, she, like other students of the flying club, flew introduction flights. However, some people did not trust a woman pilot. That did not stop her from learning aerobatics with the chief pilot, a veteran of the Escadrille d'Etampes.
In 1952, she received her first assignment as a teacher substitute. Her school was located in the village of Aboutville. It was in poor condition but the young woman was motivated. The peasants did not dare send their children to school because they have no shoes, so the young woman went to fetch them home.
From 1954, Maryse's political commitments forced her to go underground and stopped her flying activities. She emigrated to France and later became a well-known writer and painter.
On her 21st birthday, Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi (1988 - ) became the first woman to earn the Ghana National Pilot Licence (PUP). Despite winds gusting and a low cloudbase, Patricia kept that plane flying and completed her GFT (General Flying Test).
Since then, she has become the first woman and the first black African to obtain the coveted Rotax Aircraft Engine certification.