Pilot Pioneer Emily Howell Warner Flies West

Emily (Hanrahan) Howell Warner, 80, passed away on July 3, 2020, leaving behind a remarkable career and a legacy as a trailblazer for women in aviation. Hired to fly for Frontier Airlines in 1973, she became the first female pilot to fly jets on a permanent basis for a U.S. carrier. News reporters filled many of the seats on her first flight on Feb. 6, 1973, from Denver, Colo., to Las Vegas, Nev., for a chance to see the new second officer.


Warner later became the first American woman to become a captain for a scheduled U.S. airline and the first female pilot ALPA member, joining the Association in 1974. During her 42-year career, Warner flew for Frontier, Continental Airlines, and UPS and later became an FAA safety inspector and the B-737 aircrew program manager for United Airlines. In doing so, she accumulated more than 21,000 flying hours.


In recognition of her achievements to pave the way for female airline pilots, her first Frontier pilot’s uniform is on display in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and in 2015, Granby-Grand County Airport (KGNB) in Granby, Colo., was renamed Emily Warner Field.


“I met (Warner) while I was in college,” said Capt. Amy Maddox (United). The two were attending an event when the latter was still learning how to fly and Maddox said she recalls thinking, “It was really cool she was an airline pilot.” Years later, Maddox was a B-737 pilot instructor at the United Airlines Flight Training Center in Denver, Colo. and remembers working with the aviation trailblazer in both her FAA and United capacities. Of Warner, Maddox said, “She was quite the inspiration.”


A member of the International Society of Women Airline Pilots as well as the Ninety-Nines, Warner spent much of her adult life advocating for women in aviation and is an inspiration to many. Read how she was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in the November 2014 issue of Air Line Pilot.