Gabrielle Harding only Black woman pilot from an HBCU program flying for a commercial airline

Abu Mubarik March 21, 2024
Photo via Instagram/United Aviate

Gabrielle Harding knew at a very young age that she wanted to pursue an aviation career. Harding told United Aviate, a pilot career development program, in August 2023 that she gained interest in flying at age 15. Harding said that she loves flying because it provides her stability to be a mother as well as to be able to travel to different places.

Fast forward to 2024, Harding, a graduate of Hampton University, recently made history by becoming part of United Airlines’ all-female crew amid Women’s History Month.

Harding, who is the second black female line check pilot in the company’s history, took charge of the all-female crew on flight 1215 from EWR to SRQ.

Flying beside Harding was First Officer Julia Ewalefo, who began her career with United Airlines as a flight attendant and conducted her first flight there. She had previously served as a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines before moving to the flight deck, where she flew for Endeavor before joining United.

“It was wonderful having an all-women crew, and Julia did a great job,” Harding told ABC 7 in a post-flight interview. “It’s important to highlight these occasions to help inspire the next generation of women aviators. I hope any young girl seeing this story believes they can achieve their dreams if they put their mind to it.”

Harding is the only black woman to fly commercially after graduating from Hampton University’s HBCU pilot program in 1997. She is also a member of the “Hampton 6,” which consists of all Hampton grads who are now captains at United Airlines, and the only woman in the group.

“I graduated in 1997. At the time I was the only female in the airways science department during the four years which I was there,” said Harding, per 13NewsNow.

For nearly 20 years, she has worked for one of the biggest airlines in the world, United. “So far in my journey of having flown a 737, 777, the Boeing 787 has by far been the most fun aircraft I’ve flown to date,” Harding said in 2021, according to WGN9.

The Women in Aviation Advisory Board found that women make up 4.6% of air transport pilot jobs in 2022. Harding said that one of her motivations for becoming a Line Check Pilot and training new hires was to assist them in overcoming obstacles.

“There’s always going to be a little bit of negative feedback that comes with it,” Harding said of women aspiring to become pilots. “That’s what fuels the soul, and that’s what makes you keeps on pushing.”

“Also, that was one of the things that made me want to become a line check pilot, so that I could help people like Julia get through those barriers so that they don’t have to go through some of the pushback that I had to go through.”

Harding has always been grateful to the Girl’s Scout for sending her to space camp and the Tuskegee Airmen Detroit chapter for taking her on the plane ride that kickstarted her dream of becoming a pilot, WGN9 reported.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 21, 2024


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