These Latinos Forever Changed Aviation History

These Latinos Forever Changed Aviation History

Image courtesy of Nuestro Stories.

There are so many places where Latinos have made major strides. From technology to science, to math, and engineering. From art and music to food and business. There is no shortage of Latinos doing extraordinary things. 

Since its 2022, and it’s been a long time since aviation first became a concept discussed in the everyday lives of Americans, we wanted to take a look back at the Latinos who have made a historic impact on the world of aviation. 

From breaking records to breaking stereotypes, let’s take a look at some of the Latinos who made aviation history. 

Jorge Antonio Chavez Dartnell 

Latinos aviation Jorge Chavez

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jorge Antonio Chavez Dartnell was the first person to fly across the French Alps in 1910. At the time of his flight, Jorge was only 23 years old and had received his pilot license only months before.  In a trip that would end up breaking the standing world record at the time, Jorge set off on a 51-minute journey from the French side of the Alps to the Italian side. Despite his relative inexperience, the flight surprisingly went off without any kind of problem throughout the course of the journey. It wasn't until it was time for Jorge to land that the issues arose. Jorge crashed his aircraft into the mountains, and although he initially survived the impact, he died four days later on the Italian side of the Alps from problems stemming from his injuries. 

Olga Custodio 

Though she is not considered a household name, Puerto Rican-born Olga Custodio is the first Latina US military pilot in American history and the first Latina to complete US Air Force Military pilot training, a space that had been considered a men-only space since the program’s inception. 

Olga Custodio

Image courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Her groundbreaking and ceiling-shattering move up the military ladder didn’t stop when she retired. With over 11000 flight hours under her belt, Custodio became American Airlines' first Latina commercial airline captain. Her mantra was querer es poder

Gustavo Salinas Camina 

Camina was considered a hero in his hometown of Cuatrocienegas, Mexico. Camina was the first person to use an airplane to attack naval vessels in combat. Camina was a military pilot in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution. 

During one of his missions, he came across Guerrero and Morelos gunboats. Realizing he was at an advantage and carrying explosives on his plane, he dropped the live ammunition down onto the ships. Though either gunboat sustained no major damage, Camina was the first pilot to open the eyes of the military officers when it came to the potential of attacking from the air. He became the Mexican Air Force's first Division General. He was awarded medals for his contribution to both aviation and military aviation by the Mexican, French, Peruvian, and Belgian governments by the time he died. 

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Olivia Monahan Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.