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LGBTQI+ Pride Spotlight: Aviation Icons

Pete Buttigieg

First Openly Gay Cabinet Secretary – Dept of Transportation

First Openly LGBTQI+ Cabinet Secretary in the Biden Administration. As United States Secretary of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration is part of his portfolio, the government agency which ensures safe air travel throughout the nation. He’s a former naval intelligence officer and Rhodes scholar who was also the first openly Gay Presidential candidate in the 2020 Presidential election. Also known affectionately as “Mayor Pete” he’s the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana (from 2012 to 2020). Photo: USDOT

Sally Ride

NASA Astronaut & Physicist (First American woman and known Lesbian to go into space).

She’s an LA native and the first Astronaut known to be Lesbian. She attended both Stanford University and UCLA and had a Doctorate in Philosophy. She also flew twice as a mission astronaut on at least two of Challenger Space Shuttle flights. Photo: NASA

M’Lis Ward

Pilot United Airlines

The first African American woman and member of the LGBTQI+ community to be a U.S. Airline Captain. Photo: Two Point Pictures /USC

Air Force Major Margaret Witt

Successfully challenged the US Military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy

She is now an openly Gay Air Force veteran, however she was outed during the time of "Don't ask don't tell". She challenged the Military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in court leading the way for that policy and others to be revoked. Photo: Margaret Witt

Jane Rigby

First Openly LGBTQI+ Lesbian Astrophysicist

She played a key role as Deputy Operations Project Scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope project. Photo NASA Bill Ingalls

Karen Ulane

Transgender Eastern Airlines pilot who challenged the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Once she underwent sex-reassignment surgery in the 1980’s the airline subsequently terminated her employment because of it. She sued Eastern and won. However, that was overturned on appeal and was then the reason transgender discrimination did not fall under the protection of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Photo: Wikipedia /Fair Use

Leonardo Di Vinci

Renaissance Artist, Engineer, Philosopher, Sculptor, Architect and Dreamer

A lot is written about his personal life, some speculative but much also based in fact from his writings, drawings and biographers throughout the years, culminating in the very possible likelihood he was Gay. Imagine where flight as we know it today would be if not for his experimentation and philosophies 500 years ago? Image: Wellcome Images

Mark Bingham

American Hero

As we celebrate LGBTQI+ pioneers in aviation and aerospace its hard to not recognize a true LGBTQI+ icon, Mark Bingham. His heroic acts against terrorist hijackers in one of the biggest aviation tragedies on the ground and in the air, on that fateful day on September 11, 2001, may have forever changed the trajectory of our country. Mark a passenger aboard the hijacked UA Flight 93 along with a few other heroic passengers, led the charge on the cockpit door to retake the airliner from terrorists piloting the plane to most likely crash into either the U.S. Capitol or Whitehouse in Washington D.C. Their efforts ultimately thwarted the hijackers but at the cost of their own lives as the flight crashed into a field outside of Washington D.C. in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Photo: Wikipedia /Fair Use

Scott Fisher

Author: Scott is a volunteer at the Flight Path Museum. Click on the plane below to learn more about Scott
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