ALPA

Leadership From the Cockpit

During Women’s History Month, we’re excited to pay homage to the many trailblazing female aviators who set records, broke barriers, and shattered ceilings. Throughout the history of aviation, there have been countless women who set their sights on the sky and weren’t afraid to set a precedent in doing so.

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Those who dream of becoming a pilot don’t see the sky as the limit; they see it as a starting-off point. Bessie Coleman had every excuse to give up on her dream of becoming a pilot. In a time when American flight schools admitted neither women, nor African Americans, Coleman relentlessly pursued her passion for flight. 

The young aspiring pilot worked for years, saving money to study abroad in Paris, France. There, she was unbound by limits due to her race and gender, and she seized the opportunity to learn to fly in a Nieuport 82 biplane. On June 15, 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first female of African American and Native American descent to earn a pilot’s license, as well as the first to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. 

Returning to the United States in 1921, Coleman set her sights on earning a living as a stunt pilot. However, Coleman could not find anyone willing to teach her in the U.S., so she went back to France where she spent two months completing an advanced aviation course. From there it was off to the Netherlands to study under Anthony Fokker, one of the world’s most distinguished aircraft designers, then to Germany to receive additional advanced training from a chief pilot at the Fokker Corporation. 

Coleman launched her career in exhibition flying upon returning to the United States. She made her first appearance in an American airshow on September 3, 1922 at Curtiss Field on Long Island, NY. She went on to excel at exhibition flying, stunning packed audiences with her daring and complex stunts. 

Once her passion for aviation ignited, Coleman never stopped fanning the flame, even down to the last moments of her life. She left this world at age 34, doing exactly what she loved most. 

To this day, Bessie Coleman continues to be an inspiration to all who dare to dream. In observance of Black History Month, ALPA is honored to recognize Coleman for her courage, passion, and skill. 

 

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Vivid outdoor light displays and inflatable characters bring smiles to many during the holidays – but did you know that these high-tech presentations can put pilots, charged with the care of passengers and packages onboard, in danger?

The use of lasers in such displays has increased substantially in recent years, and a high-powered or poorly aimed laser beam can hit a pilot's line of sight on the flightdeck during a critical phase of flight—takeoff or landing. This year alone, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received 8,550 reports of laser strikes against aircraft, up from 6,852 in 2020 – and making the highest annual total since 2016!

The “laser strike” that illuminates the inside of an airplane flight deck can cause temporary blindness to the pilots aboard, which puts the flight in danger. Some pilots who suffer laser strikes have long-term vision impairments, leaving them unable to work.

If you’re a pilot who gets lased this holiday season, follow these steps.

ALPA walks you through how to mitigate a laser hit on the flightdeck, reporting to air traffic control and follow up actions after you land safely.

As you deck the halls this holiday season, remember your airline pilots and keep your lights and lasers pointed at your house, not to the sky. We’ll make sure your family and friends – and all those online purchases and gifts – arrive safe and secure.

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ALPA is happy to participate in helping the public fly drones safely, as it sparks the aviation bug for so many across the nation this holiday season. But before you take your drone out for a spin, we’d like to review the training requirements and emphasize how essential it is for you to follow them for everyone’s safety because now, you are sharing our airspace.

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We know that the most vital safety feature on a commercial airliner is at least two experienced, trained, and rested professional pilots on the flight deck—and as our passengers begin to return to the skies, we are delivering this message loud and clear so travelers know that airline pilots are More Than Ready to get them safely to their destinations this holiday season and beyond.

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