MNN Galleries

9 famous female aviators

By: Matt Hickman on April 24, 2017, 9:43 a.m.
U.S. astronaut Sally Ride

Photo: Alan C. Heison/Shutterstock

1 of 12

Fabulous flying women

Several years ago, the worlds of aviation and space exploration lost a legend when the first American woman to fly in space, Sally Ride (pictured), succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. Ever since Ride went into orbit aboard the Challenger in 1983, the trailblazing astronaut has inspired countless number of young women to take flight and follow their dreams by pursuing careers in aviation and astronautics.

Interestingly enough, just days before Ride’s death, veteran pilot Liu Yang, 33, became the first Chinese woman to enter space while aboard spacecraft Shenzhou 9 on a 13-day mission.

In honor of Ride and Yang, we've rounded up nine other pioneering aviators and astronauts, contemporary and historic, who have shattered flight records and stereotypes — and in some cases, the sound barrier — and changed the course of history in the process.

We've come a long way since 19-year-old Aida de Acosta, much to the chagrin of her horrified parents, hopped into a dirigible in Paris and became the first woman to fly solo in a powered aircraft in 1903.

This gallery was originally written in 2012 and has been updated with new information.