News1st Black Woman To Fly In U.S. Air Force Retires As A...

1st Black Woman To Fly In U.S. Air Force Retires As A United Airlines Pilot –

Theresa Claiborne’s final flight has landed.

Captain Theresa Claiborne, the trailblazing pilot who became the first African American woman to fly in the U.S. Air Force, celebrated her retirement from United Airlines with a final flight on May 23.

Claiborne’s nearly 43-year aviation career came full circle as she landed a United 787 Dreamliner in Newark, New Jersey, after a journey from Lisbon, Portugal. CNN reported that upon arrival, the pilot received the symbolic water cannon salute as she celebrated with loved ones. Reflecting on this transition, Claiborne remarked, “After this, walking through the airport, I won’t have a uniform on…People will just look at me like I’m just a passenger like everyone else; that’ll be a little different.”

The Virginia native’s passion for flying took root at age seven after her first flight. She joined the Air Force Reserve Office Training Force in college, solidifying her path after experiencing the thrill of piloting a T-37 jet trainer. “Once I got that first taste of being in the air and being in command of the airplane, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m going to do,” she said. Following the completion of her pilot’s license just months after graduating from California State University in Sacramento, Claiborne was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

The pioneering aviator shattered barriers in 1981 as the first Black woman to fly in the U.S. Air Force. “I still get chills when I think about the fact that I was the first,” Claiborne said. Her milestones continued as the first Black woman command pilot and instructor for the KC-135 refueling jet.

Her future plans include becoming an author and the dream of one day piloting a historic WWII aircraft or Tuskegee Airmen’s legendary Red Tail fighter.

Source: Black Enterprise

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