This is the female pilot who trained hundreds of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen

Stephen Nartey January 23, 2023
Willa Brown/Photo credit: Metropolitan Airport News

Willa Brown, an iconic figure in the aviation industry, was the first African-American woman to hold both a pilot’s license and a commercial license in the United States. She paved the way for Black pilots and aviation enthusiasts to showcase their talent to the world.

Brown started her aviation journey in 1935 when she joined the Challenger Air Pilots Association while studying for her master’s degree at Northwestern University. She gained her Master Mechanic Certificate and began directing flights and providing group school instruction in the field. Brown became the first African-American woman to hold a pilot’s license in 1938 and a commercial license in 1939, breaking barriers for women and people of color in aviation.

She was also a strong campaigner for African-American pilots and co-founded the National Airmen’s Association of America in 1939, a group of Black aviators. Brown’s efforts were not without opposition as she suffered racial discrimination during World War II when she wanted to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Despite being rejected, Brown offered her assistance in other ways during the war and organized the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 613 with her husband, Cornelius Coffey.

Brown’s work led to the acceptance of African Americans into the Army Air Forces and paved the way for over 200 future Tuskegee Airmen and instructors. Her advocacy and contributions to the aviation industry were instrumental in opening up opportunities for African-Americans in aviation and the military.

Last Edited by:iboateng Updated: May 1, 2023


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