Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood are usually the names that spring to mind when you think about actors who possess pilot licenses. However, they are far from being the only A-list thespians that have broken not just into Hollywood, but into the skies as well. This article lists 9 of the most influential female pilots that ever lived.
Gisele Bundche. Photo Courteys of Mark Edwards
Brazilian model and Victoria’s Secret Angel Gisele Bundchen learned to fly a Robinson R44 helicopter while she was pregnant with her and Tom Brady’s child. She was able to get her license in 2009. Bundchen is an advocate of sustainable flying via the use of alternative fuel, and worked with the UN’s Environmental Programme to campaign the initiative.
Carol Vorderman has been a popular figure on British TV for over 30 years. Her career began in 1982 when she joined a game show called Countdown and appeared on the show with Des O'Connor and Des Lynam. She took some personal time off from the screen to do what she has always dreamed off: take off, fly solo, and be one with the skies. Vorderman earned her license back in 2013, and in November 2014, she became an Ambassador to the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. She was given an honorary title of Captain and is the first female ambassador in the RAF Air Cadets' history.
Carol Vorderman. Photo Courtesy of The Daily Mirror
Angelina Jolie established her reputation of being a female action star when she played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. The video game series that spawned a multi-million dollar empire went beyond video games, breaching new heights regarding merchandise and even its own Tomb Raider slot title launched on Spin Genie. The role put her on the map in terms of being an action hero on and off screen, giving her the strength to do most of her own stunts in the film series. Getting her pilot’s license proves just how fearless Jolie is in real life. She currently flies a Cirrus SR22 aircraft.
Angelina Jolie. Photo courtesy of Rebrn
Hillary Swank. Photo Courtesy of Beyazperde
Hilary Swank played Amelia Earhart, the pilot who vanished as she attempted to fly solo around the world, in the biopic Amelia. The role required her to learn how to fly, and it seems she was a natural. However, she was unable to get her license while filming because her insurance company wouldn’t allow her to because of the contract she was working under, according to a post on Fox News.
While no reports have since been released on whether she was able to complete the requirements that would grant her a license, it’s only a matter of time before Swank becomes a fully fledged pilot, hence why we have included her in this list.
Now, let's step back into history and check out some fascinating women who became instant celebrities because of their feats in the Aeronautics industry.
Omile was the first ever woman to earn a transport license back in 1927. She won the Dixie Derbie Air Race in 1930, as well as the National Air Races in Cleveland the following year. She was also the first woman to be admitted into the aforementioned races. Omile went to Washington DC as a private flying specialist for the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) to help the U.S. prepare for World War II. She chose flying schools that served as training centers for military flyers and convinced the CAA to hire women as flight instructors. Her proposal was accepted by the Tennessee Bureau of Aeronautics, forever changing the future of America's aeronautics.
Fay Gillis Wells
Wells was a popular journalist, broadcaster, and an American pioneer aviator. Back in 1929, she established the Ninety-Nines, the international organization for licensed female pilots. She used her skills as a broadcast journalist and corresponded from the Soviet Union in the '30s, as well as pioneered overseas radio broadcasting with her husband, Linton Wells.
In the same year, she and her husband performed sensitive government missions in Africa and carried on their mission for many more years. She also promoted world friendship through flying.
Elinor Smith. Photo Courtesy of Underwood & Underwood/Corbis
Smith was the youngest pilot to have ever received a Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) license and was signed by Orville Wright. At the age of 16, she became the first and only female pilot to have maneuvered a plane under all four of NYC's bridges, which resulted in a 10-day grounding by the mayor of New York. In 1929, she participated in an endurance flying competition that lasted for 42 hours. Before she even hit 20, she was voted the best female pilot in the U.S.
Bobbi Trout. Photo Courtesy of the LA Times
Trout earned her license to fly solo in 1928. One of her most popular feats was regaining the women's endurance record from Elinor Smith, and also gaining recognition as the first woman to fly an aircraft throughout the night. Trout was the first woman to cover thousands of miles using a 60-horsepower engine. In 1966, she received the Howards Hughes Memorial Award from the Aero Club of Southern California.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Lindbergh was the first ever female American pilot to earn a glider's license. She used that license, as well as learning how to read Morse code, in order to help her husband pioneer routes for the airline industry. In 1933, she accompanied her husband on a 5-month 30,000-mile survey for the Transcontinental Air Transport surveying Greenland, Russia, Iceland, England, Spain, Brazil, and Africa.
Lindbergh received several honors and awards throughout her life in recognition to her contributions to the aviation industry. In 1933, she received the U.S. Flag Association Cross of Honor for taking part in surveying transatlantic air routes. She also received the Hubbard Medal by the National Geographic Society for completing 40,000-miles of explorations while in the air.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."