United Airlines' First Black Female Pilot, Theresa Claiborne

United Airlines’ First Black Female Pilot, Theresa Claiborne, Takes Her Final Flight After 34 Years of Service

Trailblazer Theresa Claiborne Soars Into Retirement

After a groundbreaking 34-year career, Theresa Claiborne, United Airlines’ first-ever Black female pilot, took her final flight on Thursday.

Claiborne’s journey from Lisbon, Portugal, to Newark Liberty International Airport marked the end of an era as she retired, leaving behind a legacy of inspiration and mentorship.

Breaking Barriers in the Skies

Claiborne’s aviation career has been defined by shattering glass ceilings. Even before joining United Airlines in 1989, she made history as the first Black female pilot in the U.S. Air Force, commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1981.

Over the years, Claiborne has logged an impressive 23,000 flight hours, a testament to her dedication and skill.

A Mentor to Aspiring Pilots

Beyond her accomplishments in the cockpit, Claiborne has been a driving force in inspiring and mentoring young women of color who aspire to become pilots.

As the president of Sisters of the Sky, a non-profit organization, she has dedicated herself to supporting and guiding the next generation of female aviators.

“Oh, I guess maybe I did make an impact, and that’s important because when you put your heart and soul into something and it turns out that people appreciated it and people listened and got something out of it, it makes it all the better,” Claiborne reflected.

A Celebrated Career Comes to a Close

Claiborne’s final flight with United Airlines was greeted with a water cannon salute upon landing in Newark, a fitting tribute to her pioneering career.

Her retirement marks the end of an era, but her legacy will continue to inspire countless aspiring pilots for generations to come.

Advice for Future Aviators

As she bid farewell to the skies, Claiborne shared words of wisdom for those following in her footsteps: “Number one, you have to know how to do your job, and that’s what I tell people: don’t look for any handouts. Just go in there and do it. You work, work, work, work, work, work, work, and then at the end of the rainbow, there’s a lot of color.”