By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) — A woman who made history in the skies is now sharing her story with students at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. The Wings Aerospace Academy is an enrichment program for students passionate about aviation — a career in which women are still very underrepresented.
“Just take one flying lesson and see if you like it,” she said. “Usually if somebody takes one flying lesson they like it and that’s what gets them started.”
So who better to inspire them than the first woman to earn her captain’s wings?
When Emily Howell Warner, 78, earned her stripes in 1976, she became America’s first female commercial airline captain.
Back then, women in STEM careers were rare, and pilots were unheard of in the industry. But with some help and encouragement, she got her chance to ask for the chance to become a pilot.
“I guess women were going to start flying,” she remembers being told after she asked. “’But what would we do for a uniform for you?’” the same person said after she told him she wanted to fly.
Warner says she was under a lot of pressure when she started. Everyone was watching her, waiting for her to make a mistake.
Now, she has hundreds of young eyes watching her, as she inspires them to spread their wings.
Warner suffers from dementia now, but there are some things she’ll never forget. Like one of her first flights with a male co-pilot.
“He said ‘You’re flying with me today, but I don’t want you to touch anything on the airplane.’ It was a quiet flight the whole time… I said I really enjoyed flying with you and he said ‘I don’t know about women flying, but I guess it was going to happen,'” Warner recalled.
Warner still lives in the Denver area and you can find her name enshrined in places like the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.
What you can’t find around here is Warner’s captain uniform. You’ll have to go to the Smithsonian for that.
She was joined by fellow female pilots at the event at the museum. A unique group with a shared experience few others can say they’ve accomplished.
“You see the world in a different way than when you’re driving a car,” said Warner.