Captain “Sully” became everyone’s hero when he landed in the Hudson River. Supposed there was a woman at the controls – would the outcome have been the same? Not too long ago, a woman pilot set her corporate jet down safely on a runway after hitting a glider who was not communicating with air traffic, tearing the nose off the airplane and stuffing the instrument panel in her lap. With blood streaming down her face this brave woman did what she was trained to do and the outcome was a happy one. Most likely, the media didn’t pick this up because there were so few folks onboard, but also because it wasn’t an airliner.

Women pilots were heroes back during World War II and they’ve attained notoriety by setting distance flight records and winning aerobatic contests. But the question of whether they were smart enough, strong enough and brave enough to pilot a commercial aircraft kept them from being hired. It was a man’s world and for those women who really wanted to break into airline or corporate flying it seemed like a dead end street. Even though the women were equally qualified, the doors remained closed and the term “glass ceiling” was coined to reflect their upward vision but blocked pathway.

Fortunately some women refused to be discouraged. These early professional pilots kept flying and gaining the experience needed to prove to the airlines and corporations that they were as qualified as their male counterparts. Eventually they were hired and that opened the door for the four percent of the women who are flying as professionals today.

The stories of these early women pilots are unique, and a new book, “Flying Above the Glass Ceiling” reveals their struggles, discrimination, determination and successes. Excuses for not hiring women included, “you’re not strong enough to fly this airplane” or “women belong in the kitchen” or “you’d probably start crying in an emergency.” Misconceptions of women as pilots were and still are unfounded. Author, Captain Nina Anderson said, “My first job was flying freight in an airplane without radar. My route zig-zagged close to thunderstorms during the summer, and often I landed with so much ice on the airplane in the winter you’d think Alaska had come to New York. Just the fact that I survived the turbulence, snow and lightening without quitting out of fear, put rest to the bravery issue for me.”

Appreciation for pilot proficiency has been enhanced by the Hudson splashdown and the current focus on hero pilots becomes a news item. Women have found their place as captains of commercial airplanes but as the book describes, it wasn’t an easy road. The early women airline and corporate pilots are the true heroes for their tenacity in achieving their goal. They forged new territory despite the constant words of discouragement and proved that it doesn’t matter what your gender is.

Captain Anderson says, “When you face an emergency you handle it to the best of your ability and training. In this type of situation pilots are usually way too busy flying the airplane (which what the passengers hope they are doing) to be afraid.” Bravery is replaced with professionalism, no matter whether the pilot is a man or a woman.

Author's Bio: 

Nina is author of 18 books on natural health and aviation. She is a former corporate jet pilot and now is CEO of Safe Goods Publishing