NewsBlack Female Pilot Retires From United Airlines After 34 Years

Black Female Pilot Retires From United Airlines After 34 Years

Nationwide — Theresa Claiborne, who once made history as the first African American female pilot in the United States Air Force, is making history again as she retires from United Airlines after an impressive 34 years of service.

In 1982, Theresa became the first Black female pilot in the United States Air Force when she was commissioned as a second lieutenant. She served as a command pilot and instructor for the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker for 7 years. She also served in the Reserves for 13 years, becoming a flight commander before getting promoted to lieutenant colonel.

In 1990, Theresa also joined United Airlines as a first officer, steadily climbing the ranks to captain. Completely transitioning to civilian aviation, she officially retired from the military in 2003, with over 3,000 military flight hours under her belt.

Alongside her aviation feats, she mentored aspiring women of color, co-founding Sisters of the Skies in 2016 with fellow pilots Christine Angel Hughes and Nia Wordlaw. This organization aims to foster diversity in aviation through workshops, mentorship, and scholarships.

Recognized for her achievements, Theresa was honored with induction into the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Hall of Fame in 2017.

“Oh, I guess maybe I did make an impact and that’s important because when you put your heart and soul into something and it turns out that people appreciated it and people listened and got something out of it, it makes it all the better,” she said, according to ABC 7 NY.

Her final flight with United Airlines, spanning 34 years of service, took her from Lisbon, Portugal, to Newark Liberty International Airport. Throughout her career, she logged an impressive 23,000 flight hours.


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