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First Female Pilot for Airlines Honored at Women's Hall of Fame

October 06, 2002|From Associated Press

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — Pilot Emily Howell Warner recalls basking in the accolades that greeted her assignment as the first woman to join the flight crew of a U.S. airline in February 1973.

But the glory faded fast.

On her second flight, when the captain stepped into the cockpit, "I walked over and put out my hand," she said. "He looked at me and said, 'I don't shake hands.' He only said six more words to me, 'Don't touch anything on the airplane.' And I said 'OK, sir." '

That was then. On Saturday, Warner was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, alongside trailblazers such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the late Katharine Graham, who built the Washington Post into a leading force in journalism.

The honor roll of 19 women includes 13 whose enshrinement in 2001 was postponed by the Sept. 11 attacks. Among them are actress Lucille Ball, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Althea Gibson, the first black tennis champion at Wimbledon.

The hall was established in 1969 in Seneca Falls, a village in western New York's Finger Lakes region where the first known women's rights convention was held in 1848. Women won the right to vote in 1920.

Warner had accrued 7,000 hours as a flight instructor in Denver by the time Frontier Airlines broke the barrier against hiring female pilots. Her historic flight as second officer went from Denver to Las Vegas on Feb. 6, 1973.

Early on, the trick was "trying to be professional, not trying to be pushy or anything," Warner said. Within six months, she'd been promoted to first officer and took her turns at the controls. She soon progressed to captain and, in 1986, commanded the first female flight crew.

Warner spent 15 years at Frontier and later flew for Continental Airlines and United Parcel Service. She retired this summer at age 62.

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