A history resource written for & by young people, telling the stories the textbooks leave out. Nominate your #HistoryHero today!
As a baby, Beverly Bass was fascinated by human flight. As a child, she knew she wanted to fly the biggest, fanciest planes. She took her first flying lesson at 18. But once she was trained and ready to fulfill her life's dream of becoming an airline pilot, there was just one problem: not a single commercial airliner had ever hired a woman to fly their aircraft.
Did Beverly Bass let that stop her? She did not. That is why we honor her on this International Day of Human Space Flight.
Beverly earned her pilot’s license in 1971. The only job she could find was flying dead bodies for a mortician.
In 1976, American Airlines hired her as a flight engineer. She was one of three women to finally earn a place in an their cockpits.
In 1979, she graduated to co-pilot, the first female in the history of AA to do so. A passenger remarked, “I didn’t know pilots had secretaries.” Flight attendants accused her if thinking herself better than them. Male colleagues chided her, and asked her to mix their drinks. But in 1986, Beverly became the first female captain in American Airlines history.
Then, on September, 11, 2001, she proved to the world that anything a male pilot can do a female pilot can as well. Beverly was in the air, flying a packed Boeing 777 from Paris to Dallas, Texas, when the World Trade Towers were taken down in a terrorist attack against the United States. US airspace closed and Beverly was forced to divert her plane to Canada. Hers was the 36th of 38 planes to land in Gander, Newfoundland.
Beverly’s memories of her touchdown in Gander are the subject of Broadway’s latest surprise hit now sweeping the world: Come From Away. The story recalls the power of human generosity in the face of crisis. For five long days, as the world looked toward New York City in horror, the people of Gander — “somewhere in the middle of nowhere” as it is described in the show’s signature song — provided safe harbor for 7000 passengers and crew, feeding and housing them and making them feel at home while away from friends, communities, and families.
Beverly paved the way in an industry made of men. She stood up to sexism; she performed bravely and exceptionally in a time of global crisis. At the 2018 Tony Awards, 50 female pilots joined Beverly and the cast and crew of Come From Away to celebrate their seven nominations nominations.
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