At 23, this U.S. pilot raised in DR Congo seeks to become 1st Black woman to fly solo around the world 

Aviator Leona Serao. Photo: Leona Serao/

23-year-old Leona Serao is hoping to make history soon by becoming the first Black woman to fly solo around the world. She is all set to complete her three-month flight to 33 countries across four continents, starting from New York City in August. 

“With my flight around the world, I want to pave the way for future generations, especially women and black women, to pursue their dreams without fear of failure and show them that anything is possible and address diversity and inclusion in aviation,” she writes on her website.

Serao was born in the U.S. but raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where just three women are licensed pilots, she says via her website. Her father, who passed away before she graduated high school, was also a pilot and that inspired her to become a pilot but not without certain difficulties. In the U.S. at the moment, less than 2 percent of pilots are Black. Besides not getting access to flight time, the cost of tuition for aviation school has prevented many Black people from entering the field.

Serao went through these challenges but persevered and by the end of 2020, she had become a licensed pilot after six months of intensive study and spending about $70,000 on flight school, according to Yahoo News. 

The young pilot hopes that her historic flight will inspire other Black people who want to join the aviation field. Data cited by Yahoo News show that there have so far been 142 solo flights around the world but only 11 of the pilots have been women with none being Black. Serao hopes to change the status quo and has since begun an online campaign to assist her to cater to things she will during her flight including food, fuel and lodging.

Serao’s announcement to make history this summer comes years after Jamaican-born U.S. pilot Barrington Irving became the first Black person to fly around the world solo. Irving was also 23 when he made the journey in 2007.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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