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About Theresa

Theresa M. Claiborne is a Captain of the Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) at United Airlines. She is part of the cohort of Black women pilots that represent less than ½ of 1% of the total professional pilot career field. Her career in aviation began on June 20, 1981, when she was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, where she was the first Black woman pilot in the history of the Air Force. She graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Laughlin AFB, on September 16, 1982. Theresa was also the first Black woman to serve as a command pilot and instructor for the KC-135 during her seven years on active duty and 13 years in the Reserves.

On January 15, 1990, Theresa joined United Airlines as a flight officer. She started as a flight engineer on the Boeing 727. She has since been qualified on and flown as first officer on the Boeing 737, 747, 757, and 767. In January, 2018, she became a captain on the Boeing 757 and 767. She has accumulated more than 20,000 flight hours throughout her career.

She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, and a board member of the Grand Dames of Aviation.

Theresa has a degree in communication with a minor in journalism from California State University of Sacramento. She also attended the University of California at Berkeley for Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

Sisters of the Skies Organization

Today, there are just over 158,000 licensed pilots in the U.S. and Black women pilots represent less than ½ of 1% of the total professional pilot career field. Currently, there are less than 200 Black women pilots in the United States holding Airline Transport Pilot, Commercial, Military, and or Certified Flight Instructor Licenses.

In 2016, Captain Claiborne became one of the founding members Sisters of the Skies,  a nonprofit 501(3)(c) organization with the mission of developing pathways and partnerships to increase the number of Black women in the  professional pilot career field.  The organzation does that by offering workshops, mentorships, and scholarships and camaraderie to women of color who have had little or no exposure to professional pilot careers. 

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