Women trailblazers in aviation

(Posted on May 11, 2022)

Nozoki Yae (1916-2005) obtained a flying license in 1937. She was one of a few who continued to fly after World War II. She participated in an air race to fly across the US in 1975. Nozoki actively coordinated with Asian female pilots to form an aviators’ association, through which a number of flight exchanges were made.  

There was a TV series entitled “Cloud Carpet” (a literal translation) about a female pilot on NHK, the Japanese national TV station, in 1976. It happened to be a smash hit with an incredible viewer rating of more than 40%, being aired at 8:15~8:30 am Monday through Saturday, from April to October of the said year. The leading actress played a young girl from the countryside who came to Tokyo to work as a wealthy family’s maid. Somehow, she showed a great interest in flying, so she entered a private flying school after persuading her parents first and foremost; then she endeavored to become a pilot, presumably in the 1930s. Although there was no particular pilot as a role model according to NHK, there were several pilots who seemed to resemble this one. Let’s look at the endeavors of these actual pilots.


There were altogether 27 Japanese female pilots before the Second World War. Most of them took a great interest in flying in various ways: by visiting an airfield with her pupils as a school teacher; showing interest in making airplane models; having the influence of a father interested in airplanes and so on. How did they manage to bear expensive flying tuitions, which happened to be almost the equivalent to buying a modest house at that time for getting a license? Some continued to work but even in this case they had to rely on the financial assistance of their parents, and sometimes their grandparents. After getting a license, did they carry passengers and mail as commercial pilots? Unfortunately, it was not the case. Before the war, a commercial license was available to men only. Accordingly, most female pilots gave up flying eventually overtime; for instance, when they got married. Finally, women’s flying was completely banned as war became imminent. 

The first female pilot, Hyodo Tadasi (1899-1980), got her flying license in 1922. 


A typical training aircraft, French Salmson 2A2 biplane, which was used during World War I.

The first female pilot, Nishizaki Kiku (1912-1979), who flew to Manchuria in 1934, flying a Salmson 2A2. 


Incidentally, a celebrity American Aviator, Amelia Earhart (1897-1937), made a successful non-stop solo transatlantic flight in a Lockheed Vega 5B aircraft in 1932. Furthermore, Amelia “attempted to become the first woman to complete a circumnavigational flight of the globe but disappeared over the Central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island” in 1937.


                  Early aviators (not related to the female pilots mentioned)




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