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Celebrating ‘Aviation Change Maker’ Aida de Acosta Root Breckinridge

Women continue to make amazing contributions to American history. Women's mark on American history was highlighted this year with the election of the nation's first female vice president, Kamala Harris.

In recognition of Women's History Month, the MAC's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion shines the light on another "first" – Aida de Acosta Root Breckinridge, an aviation change maker (1884-1962).

  • In 1903, Aida met Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian pioneer aviator, when she was just 19. He showed her how to operate a dirigible, which is similar to a blimp. Three lessons later, she was flying on her on own. 
  • On June 28, 1903, Aida flew the aircraft solo from Paris to Chateau de Bagatelle, becoming the first woman to pilot a motorized aircraft. This occurred five months before the Wright brothers' flight in December 1903.
  • Her accomplishments, however, were not celebrated by her family. Her parents claimed no man would want to marry her because of her accomplishment.  
  • As a result, Aida never flew again. She kept the flight a secret until 1930. In 1933, her accomplishment was published in the Sportsman Pilot, and Aida received the credit she deserved.

Passion for aviation knows no gender, but women still make up less than 10 percent of pilots, maintenance technicians and airline executives, according to several sources.

For several years, the MAC has promoted aviation careers for women, including hosting the popular Girls in Aviation Day at Flying Cloud Airport.

The opportunity for all of us to learn and discover a passion for aviation exists because of women like Aida de Acosta Root Breckinridge, who the MAC is celebrating this month as an Aviation Change Maker.