First Black woman pilot for the U.S. Air Force retires with final flight to New Jersey

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

NEWARK, New Jersey -- A groundbreaking airline pilot is flying off into the sunset.

Theresa Claiborne retired from United Airlines on Thursday.

She reached heights never seen before as the first Black woman pilot in the history of the United States Air Force, commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1981

Clairborne was also the first Black woman to serve as a command pilot and instructor for the Boeing KC-135Stratotanker during her 7 years on active duty in the Military and 13 years in the Reserves.

For many years she's also served as a mentor to other women of color who want to follow the same path.

"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 said.

Her final flight after 34 years with United was from Lisbon, Portugal to Newark Liberty International Airport.

She logged 23,000 flight hours over her career.