49 states,
an airplane
and one woman’s pilot training journey.

Only seven percent of pilots are women. I’m here to help fix that.

mission complete!

N4956D – The 1978 Cessna 172 chosen for the journey.

Only seven percent of pilots are women. Under-represented much?

As a means of raising awareness around the shortage of women in aviation, I became the first documented woman to pilot an airplane among all 49 continental US states and broke the existing speed record for flying among the lower 48. The flight is complete, but my goal remains: to help raise awareness about the incredible gender imbalance in aviation.

For those who’d like to learn more about how to financially back women in aviation, I recommend consulting fundraising groups like The Ninety-Nines and Women in Aviation International. To comply with the FAA’s charity fundraising guidelines, this page is only about education and awareness.

the pilot

I'm <strong>Caroline</strong>, and I want to be a pilot.
I’m Caroline, and I want to be a pilot.

I’ve always wanted to learn to fly. A digital nomad essentially by trade, I’ve flown as a passenger in every size plane, but apart from a discovery flight several years ago, before starting this trip I’d had yet to learn the controls. I’m excited my own training might inspire other women to join me.

I’ve now become the first documented woman to fly a small, piston-engine aircraft to all 49 states. My flight instructor and I also set a new record for fastest time through the lower 48.


the cause

Since the beginning of aviation, women have kicked ass and taken names. Katherina Paulus invented the parachute. Katherine Wright helped fund the Wright Flyer. Hélène Dutrieu spied on the Germans aloft in WWI. Beryl Markham flew from Europe to North America solo non-stop in 1936. So why are so few pilots women? Perhaps a lack of access and opportunity. What can we do to fix it?

My first solution: set a good example. I have the immense privilege to take the time off for and fund my own training, but I understand that doing so for many others poses a huge risk or won’t be so easy. Hopefully, by publicizing my training, I’ve help show people what challenges to expect, provide a taste of what it’s like and, with any luck, show yet again that anything a man can do, a woman can do better at least as well.

the flight plan

Open the sidebar on the left to view a list of pins. Blue pins indicate the planned routing. Yellow involve other training locations. Green indicate a landing on the record attempt. Red indicate unplanned detours. Click on the pins for descriptions and updates. Prefer a sectional?

The routing was optimized to minimize mileage; I touched down in all 49 states as efficiently as was reasonably possible. Runway condition, fuel/supply availability, likely climate, aircraft range and—most importantly—safety were all accounted for. I flew two planes: first, a Cessna 172N with a 180 horsepower engine upgrade and second a Cessna 172K XP with 210 horsepower for takeoff and 190 sustained horsepower. Why two planes? Halfway through the journey, the first one required additional maintenance—all part of using what are essentially antique aircraft.

read, watch & listen

How can you help? Help spread the word. I’ve collected some resources below that cover the history of female aviators, the challenges women face professionally in aviation and what we can all do about it. Read it, then share with your friends. Have more ideas or more content? Email me at fly49states@gmail.com.

movies & tv
podcasts
books
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
The Fun of It: Random Records of My Own Flying and of Women in Aviation
Flying High: Pioneer Women in American Aviation, New York
Women in Aviation
West with the Night
The Jerrie Mock Story: The First Woman to Fly Solo around the World
The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II
Code Name Verity
An Officer, Not a Gentleman: The inspirational journey of a pioneering female fighter pilot
Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in WWII
A Spitfire Girl: One of the World's Greatest Female ATA Ferry Pilots Tells Her Story
Call Sign, White Lily: The Life and Loves of the World's First Female Fighter Pilot
Hornet's Nest: The Experiences of One of the U.S. Navy's First Female Fighter Pilots
A Woman Without Fear: Marie Marvingt, First Female Bomber Pilot, Air Ambulance Inventor, Journalist, Athlete
Bomber Girls: The incredible true story of the female pilots of World War II
Curiously Strong: A Female Fighter Pilot's Story of Developing Strength
High-Flying Women: A World History of Female Pilots
Flying Free: My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team