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.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.