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Women of Aviation Week: Meet the First Female Commercial Pilot

Posted by on March 8, 2014

First Female Commercial Pilot

I had the honor and privilege of working a flight last week with a very special passenger onboard. Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo was the very first female pilot ever hired by a major US Airline (American Airlines). She was such a joy to speak with and she agreed to answer a few questions about her career. I hope you find her as interesting and inspirational as I do.

First Woman AA Pilot

BethWhat made you want to become a pilot?

Bonnie: My love of flying began with my father – he was a pilot for SAS and then TWA. He started a flight school and air charter company in the 50’s and I was hooked as was my brother Allan who was two years older. We both became airline pilots.

My dad would fly his twin engine Piper Apache over our back yard on the way to JFK or LGA and I would run to the back yard and wave. I was hooked. The thrill, the adventure, the freedom…whatever it was I wanted it too.

PBI sunset

Beth: What was it like trying to become a commercial pilot in a male dominated field?

Bonnie: When I began applying for the airlines I was dimly aware that they might not want to hire me. We had a small class of 20 but there were 240 of us in the hiring class – we soon bonded and there is a life-long bond I believe.

Beth: Did you get along with your co-pilots?

Bonnie: Pilots have to watch each other’s back – as a Captain I know what the co-pilot knows and he knows what I know. We work in unison. We have to in order for the flight to function. Because of the union philosophy pilots don’t compete for a higher position within the company – we work as a team looking out for one another – we are watching each others back as well as the entire crew.   It is a great connection with the person you are relying on and that goes for the flight attendants in an emergency – you are vital to the safety of the passengers and the flight crew depends on you for that!

Beth: What advice would you give to young girls about reaching their goals?

Bonnie: It is always about believing in yourself and asking why? Why not? Why can’t I do that? Why not ME!

If you think you can – YOU CAN!

Pilot Ella
Ella at age 4, testing out the pilot seat before a flight.

Take a moment to check out Bonnie’s blog for some exciting and inspirational stories. On this week as we celebrate Women of Aviation Week Worldwide, check out this post Bonnie wrote: EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM FLYING. I love this part: “The legacy of women flyers who actually broke into the world of aviation was truly amazing.They were pioneer airwomen who worked at every type of flying – barnstorming, stunt flying, cross-country racing, setting endurance and altitude records, flight instruction – everything except airline flying.  Those big paying jobs were reserved for the men.” To read more, click here.