Meet The First Black Female Pilot In The U.S. Air Force

Captain Theresa M. Claiborne

In 1981, Captain Theresa M. Claiborne was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. A year later, in 1982, at 23, she became the first Black woman and the first African American female pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Born in 1959, Captain Claiborne came from a military family. Her dream of becoming a pilot was realized when she joined the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the California State University in Sacramento.

Captain Claiborne would later enrol for Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas in 1981. The same year, she was commissioned as a United States Air Force second lieutenant.

She completed her Undergraduate Pilot Training Program at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas in 1982. That same year, Captain Claiborne became the first African American and Black female pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

During her years with the U.S. Air Force, Captain Claiborne flew KC–135 Stratotankers for Strategic Air Command for seven years and served as an instructor pilot on the KC-135E and a flight commander for the USAF Reserves where she rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

After 21 years of service with the Air Force, and with over 3000 military flight hours, Captain Claiborne retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2003.

in 1990, she started working for United Airlines, a major American airline, as a first officer. Claiborne was later promoted to captain and went on to accumulate more than 20,000 flight hours during her career

In 2016, Captain Claiborne co-founded Sisters of the Skies with pilots Christine Angel Hughes and Nia Wordlaw to support and build the next generation of aviation professionals.

In May 2024, after 34 years of being a captain for United Airlines, Claiborne flew her last and final flight as a captain at age 65.

I plan to spend my days inspiring young people to follow their dreams by turning them into goals, shattering glass ceilings, and defying all odds. I’ll be calling in my friends from all around the world to share their experiences to empower the next generation of trailblazers who are destined for greatness. It’s been a pleasure to be your Captain and an absolute honor to fly the friendly skies

Captain Claiborne on retiring

She made her final landing for United Airlines on the 23rd of May 2024 at Newark, New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.

Author: Abu Bakarr Jalloh

Abu Bakarr Jalloh is a Sierra Leonean content writer, author, Neo Pan-African and founder of The African Dream, an online platform for inspiring, positive and compelling African stories. Contact: abubakarrjalloh@theafricandreamsl.com WhatsApp: +23276211583

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