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The Kids' Corner

Let's Talk About:
Women's History

Persistence helped pilot get career off the ground

For Bonnie Tiburzi, being told that the major airlines didn’t hire womenpilots wasn’t the end of the story, more like the beginning of a pursuit.

Tiburzi grew up with planes. Her father, a former pilot, ran a small airlines business near Danbury, By age 12, she was familiar with all sorts of planes.

Unfortunately the business didn’t work out for the family, and they moved to Florida and the travel business. But Tiburzi’s dream of being a pilot moved with her, and in 1968 she began flying lessons. Within months she had her first solo flight. She had her private license in eight months.

But to get a commercial license she needed 200 hours flying time, and that would be expensive.Heading for Europe, Tiburzi landed in Brussels to work for a small charter airline. She made a deal with the company to bring in clients for charters if she was allowed to fly as co-pilot, without pay, and accumulate the hours she needed.

By early 1971 Tiburzi got her commercial pilot’s license. She returned to the States and continued to work as a commercial pilot for charter companies. She also began applying to the major airlines for pilot positions.American Airlinesasked her to come in for an interview.

Tiburzi received a telegram asking her to start training with American in March 1973. Not only was she the first woman to be hired by a major airline for a pilot’s job, she was also the youngest to train at age 24.After passing her exam and doing her simulator time, Tiburzi had a check ride on a Boeing 72 without passengersNext came the big check, flying with passengersAlthough the captain didn’t want to fly with a woman, the flight eventually proceeded and Tiburzi passed. In 1979 she moved up to co-pilot and eventually pilot.

— By Lizabeth Gray




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