WAI’s Dr. Chabrian INSPIRES

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Women In Aviation Day was March 8, 2019. Though we celebrated it then and past posts have chronicled the female achievements in our profession, Dr. Chabrain’s career merits some more stories of similar accomplishments!!!

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NBAA Salutes WAI Founder, President Dr. Peggy Chabrian’s Contributions to Industry

Dr. Chabrian announced her upcoming retirement from the organization earlier this week during the WAI Connect Breakfast at EAA AirVenture 2019 in Oshkosh, WI.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today thanked Dr. Peggy Chabrian for her many contributions to the aviation community, most notably as the founder, president and CEO of Women in Aviation International (WAI).

NBAA Vice President, Educational Strategy and Workforce Development Jo Damato, CAM, pointed to Dr. Chabrian’s influence on her own career.

“In addition to steering the direction and accomplishments of WAI since its inception, she has touched countless lives throughout the aviation community, and has directly influenced the paths of so many of our industry’s female leaders today,” said Damato. “Dr. Chabrian created a place for ‘women who liked to talk about airplanes’, and I’ve looked to her as a role model since the day I first heard her speak.”

Dr. Chabrain’s Resume:

Dr. Peggy Chabrian is president and founder of Women in Aviation International (WAI). The organization was incorporated in 1994 as a result of the success of the annual International Women in Aviation Conference begun in 1990. The conference began with 150 participants in 1990 and had grown to more than 4,800 attendees. WAI represents nearly 12,000 women and men from all segments of the aviation industry including general, corporate, commercial, and military.

A longtime aviation enthusiast and professional aviation educator, Peggy is a 2,200+ hour commercial/instrument multiengine pilot and flight instructor who has been flying for over 30 years. Most recently she added a helicopter and seaplane ratings to her flight qualifications.

Peggy has held several top positions in aviation education including Academic Dean and Associate Vice President of Parks College; Dean of Academic Support for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s (ERAU) Prescott, Arizona campus; Director of the Center of Excellence for Aviation/Space Education at ERAU’s Daytona Beach campus; and chair of the aviation department at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. Peggy was the second woman to hold the position of dean of an engineering school in the United States. She is currently also the publisher of Aviation for Women magazine.

The recipient of numerous aviation and education awards, Peggy has received the FAA Administrator’s Award for Excellence in Aviation Education and the Civic Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She has been inducted into the Crown Circle of the National Congress on Aviation and Space Education. In October 2015, she received the Estridge Award from the University Aviation Association in recognition of a lifetime of dedicated service to aviation education.

Peggy is active in numerous aviation organizations and serves as a member of several boards including the Aviation Accreditation Board International. She is past president and board member of the University Aviation Association and served on the board of the Experimental Aircraft Association for 16 years.

An international speaker, Peggy has given numerous keynote and motivational presentations to hundreds of audiences. She has also authored numerous articles and authored an aviation management textbook.

Inspired by the occasion of this leader’s retirement, here are two excellent articles and one video about women in aviation:


Meet the Daring Women of Color Who Beat Bigotry in Aviation


“No one had ever heard of a black woman pilot in 1919. I refused to take no for an answer.”- Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman

Bessie Coleman had the odds stacked against her since she was born. Nicknamed “Queen Bess,” Coleman was the first woman of African and Native American descent to hold a pilot license. It was far from easy.

Born on January 16, 1892, nearly ten years before Orville Wright powered the first aircraft 20 feet above a windy beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Coleman was raised in a family of sharecroppers in Atlanta, Texas. One of 13 children, Coleman was an avid reader. The colorful Wonderful Wizard of Oz and his flying balloon inspired her to finish high school and attend college.

At 23-years-old, Coleman moved to Chicago, where she lived with her brothers and worked as a manicurist.  During the day, she read and listened to the incredible stories of flight from black pilots returning home from the Great War. She was hooked, determined to become a pilot.

Like many aspiring aviators, Coleman developed an early interest in flying but was turned away from every U.S. flight training school she approached, as they refused to admit people of color. Her half Cherokee background, inherited from her father, didn’t help much either. 

Coleman would forge her own path with a little push from editor and publisher Robert S. Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender and one of the first African American millionaires. Abbott encouraged her to study abroad where she was graciously welcomed. Taking his advice, Coleman learned French at a language school in Chicago before traveling to France for flying lessons.

It would take a trip across the Atlantic for her to become one of the first black female pilots. She was accepted into the famous French flight school run by plane designers Gaston and René Caudron: the École d’aviation du Crotoy.







Bessie Coleman, shown here on the wheel of a

Curtiss JN-4 “Jennie” in her custom-designed

flying suit (circa 1924). | Smithsonian Institution

Bessie Coleman First African American licensed Pilot Photo was taken for her license,

                                  June 15, 192. | Wikimedia Commons

Coleman walked to the flight school every day. In the air, she mastered tailspins, banking and looping the loop. After seven months of training, on June 15, 1921, Coleman became the first woman of African American and Native American descent to earn a pilot’s license from the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation. To receive this license, she demonstrated her skills with challenging life-saving maneuvers, including turning off the engine before touching down.








Bessie Coleman |

Flickr/SDASM Archives/Creative Commons

The spirited woman from Texas practiced in a Nieuport 82 biplane primarily built for racing. Coleman biographer Doris L. Rich described the plane as having “a steering system that consisted of a vertical stick the thickness of a baseball bat in front of the pilot and a rudder bar under the pilot’s feet.” During one of her practice flights, Coleman witnessed the death of a fellow student in a plane crash. Although shaken, she persisted and spent the next two months taking more lessons and polishing her skills.

Barnstorming, essentially providing aerial entertainment, was the ideal way to make a living for female flyers of the era. With no one willing to teach her how to perform stunts in the U.S., Coleman soon returned to France to complete advanced courses. A little later, she traveled to Germany to visit the Fokker Corporation, where she was taught by Anthony Fokker, one of the world’s most distinguished aircraft designers. Back in America, she became a successful air show pilot flying in Curtiss JN-4 biplanes and other army surplus aircraft left over from the war. Known for performing flying tricks, “Queen Bess,” was incredibly popular for the next five years.

Sadly, her flying career proved to be short-lived. Coleman purchased a Curtiss JN-4 but was unaware it had been poorly maintained. Ten minutes into her first flight on April 30, 1926, the plane unexpectedly went into a dive, spinning 3,000 feet above the ground in Jacksonville, Florida. Coleman was thrown from the plane, dying instantly. It happened one year before Charles Lindbergh made his historic transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

Coleman blazed a trail for future aviators of color who were left out because of their race. 

There was Willa Brown[1] from Kentucky, the first African American woman to run for the United States Congress and the first African American officer in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol. Together with her husband Cornelius Coffey — an experienced aviator in his own right — and Enoch Waters, she founded the Cornelius Coffey School of Aeronautics in 1939. They were pivotal in organizing the Tuskegee Airmen program during World War II and trained hundreds of pilots, several of whom would go on to become Tuskegee Airmen.

After learning African Americans weren’t allowed to take off in airports with white customers, aviator Janet Harmon Bragg1 and a group of black classmates bought land to build their own air club and runway. In 1928, Bragg became the first black woman to enroll in the Curtiss Wright School of Aeronautics in Chicago.

Other firsts followed. Katherine Sui Fun Cheung1 was the first woman of Chinese ancestry to earn a pilot’s license in the U.S.

Born in 1904 China, Cheung came to Los Angeles in 1931 to join her father and study at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. Her love of flying would take precedence over her piano skills when a cousin invited her for a ride in the sky. Cheung soon began competing in air races and performing aerobatics in air shows. In 1935, Cheung joined the Ninety-Nines organization for women pilots, an association founded by her friend Amelia Earhart.  After the loss of Earhart’s disappearance over the Pacific Ocean and after Cheung’s cousin died while testing his plane, Cheung returned to China to open a flying school and became a flight instructor in the U.S. after World War II.

Bessie Coleman and Katherine Cheung were unwavering trailblazers. Strong-willed and steadfast, they were smart, determined women who would not take no for an answer.  Defying racial and gender bias, they set the mark for future female flyers during the early years of aviation.

Willa Brown, circa 1941, was the first African American woman to receive a commission as a lieutenant in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol.” | Flickr/The U.S. National Archives/Creative Commons





























Top Image: Bessie Coleman, shown here on the wheel of a Curtiss JN-4 “Jennie” in her custom-designed flying suit (circa 1924). | Smithsonian Institution 

Ninety Years Since Maryse Bastié Became the First Woman to Set an Aviation World Record

Ninety years ago, on 28 July 1929, the French aviator Maryse Bastié1 made history when she became the first ever female pilot to set an aviation world record.

JULY 18, 2019

The record was for the duration of her flight, which she completed in a Caudron C – 109 aircraft and lasted for close to 27 hours.

On 27 September 1929, the Aero Club of France wrote to the FAI confirming that Bastié had spent 26 hours, 47 minutes, and 30 seconds in the air, and asking the Federation to include her record on the global list.

Bastié went on to set a new record for duration in 1930, at which time fellow aviator Léna Bernstein had surpassed Bastié’s 1929 flight by staying in the air for more than 35 hours.

For this record, Bastié took off on 2 September 1930 and landed on 4 September having spent almost 38 hours in flight.

The pioneering aviator also went on to set further records, including a world record for distance that led to her becoming the first Frenchwoman to claim the Harmon Trophy – an aviation award established by the wealthy balloonist Clifford B. Harman.

About Maryse Bastié

Born in Limoges, France on 27 February 1898, Marie-Louise Bombec – as she was known at the time – had a difficult early life.

However Bastié became interested in aviation when she married her second husband, the World War 1 pilot Louis Bastié.

She obtained her pilot’s license in 1925 and went on to buy a plane – the Caudron C – 109 in which she completed her record-setting flight – in 1927.

Her husband was killed in a plane crash in 1926, but Bastié kept flying and even founded her own flying school at Orly Airport in Paris.

She also served in the French Air Force, rising to the rank of Captain and eventually being named a Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French government.

Bastié died in France on 6 July 1952 when her plane crashed during takeoff.







She was posthumously honoured by the French government, which put her image on a postage stamp in 1955, and is buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.





















Women’s Work During WWII

Aviation can sometimes be glamorized in the public imagination. Understand what it was truly like in those early, precarious days of daredevil antics and wacky creations. And how, this birthed a new “blue sky” culture in Southern California.




Knowing history adds to the context of what we do. The contributions of women in aviation, an underappreciated chapter of our history, merit inclusion in our understanding of our business.


[1] Their pictures are included in the cover collage of picture.



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