Meet The First African American Woman to Become a Pilot For a Major U.S. Airline

In 1978, Jill E. Brown-Hiltz was hired as a pilot for Texas International Airlines, making her primary African American woman pilot at a severe airline. But it didn’t always appear as if her dreams would come true. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, she ever wanted to fly quite anything, but she ended up graduating with a degree in home ec and commenced teaching.

Taking off

In 1974, however, Brown enlisted within the U.S. Navy, where she was admitted into the Navy’s flight educational program. She was the primary African American woman within the program but felt that the Navy wasn’t for her. After 6 months, she was honorably discharged.

Her next job was at Wheeler Airlines, she worked her high from a ticket counter clerk to pilot, logging enough hours as a pilot to qualify for employment at a severe airline.

Texas International Airlines (TIA) later hired Brown as a pilot when she was just 28-years old, and she or he made history. However, because she believed that she was only hired due to her race, she decided to only stick with the airline for a year.

Paving the way

It’s estimated that African American women only structure about 0.01% of all commercial pilots within the country. Brown was a pioneer during a field that’s still dominated by white men. Due to her early accomplishments, Brown continues to inspire many other Black and minority women who aspire to be pilots also.

Jill E. Brown-Hiltz
Jill E. Brown-Hiltz

But her success has not always been easy. For instance, in 1990, Brown sued United Airlines for discrimination because she applied three times and was never hired. The lawsuit was unsuccessful, but it opened the doors for her to advocate for others who are victims of discrimination within the airline industry.


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