Willa Brown, First African-American Pilot and Co-Founded The National Airmen’s Association of America

1 Posted by - October 2, 2018 - BLACK WOMEN, LATEST POSTS

was born in 1906 in Glasgow, Kentucky.  She is known for being the first African-American pilot and co-founder of The National Airmen’s Association of America. Brown graduated from Wiley High School in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1923. Shortly after high school she attended Indiana State. Like most women with degrees during her time, Brown became a teacher and taught high school for a short while in Gary, Indiana.

She later worked as a social worker in Chicago. But, there was something still missing in Brown’s life; she felt as if she could be doing more. So, she decided to learn how to fly. She was not blind to the fact that she was limited because she was a woman, and a woman of color at that. She was greatly influenced by aviatrix Bessie Coleman, and so Brown started taking flight lessons at Chicago’s Aeronautical University.

By 1935, she received her master mechanic’s certificate, joined the Challenger Air Pilot’s Association, joined the Chicago Girl’s Flight Club, and enrolled in a master’s program at Northwestern University. She became the first woman in 1937 to receive an airman’s certificate.  She  became  a licensed Black private pilot in the United States. Brown went on to receive her MBA from Northwestern and co-founded the National Airmen’s Association of America to promote interest in aviation, and to help other black aviation cadets into the US Military as pilots.

Brown was also coordinator of war-training service for the Civil Aeronautics Authority. Later in 1943, she became the first woman in the United States who possessed both a mechanic’s license and a commercial license in aviation. In 2010, she was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by the Indiana State University Alumni Association. Brown died in 1992 at the age of 86.





  • Carmen McQuade September 5, 2016 - 7:14 pm Reply

    What was the name of that female pilot that got lost, never to return?
    Kudos to you Ms. Willa Brown!

  • Jerry Lucas October 1, 2017 - 9:56 pm Reply

    So what is the distinction between Ms. Brown and Bessie Coleman, if Bessie Coleman was her role model. Wouldn’t that make Bessie Coleman the first African American pilot. Or are you saying Ms. Brown is the first African American to receive a U.S. pilot license, whereas Ms. Coleman had an International license, thus receiving her outside of the U.S..

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