Willa Beatrice Brown
As an ode to the wonderful achievements of Willa Beatrice Brown and her pivotal role in early aviation, the Robinson Family Aerospace Mission sought to recognize Brown by sending her name aboard the InSight Mars Lander.
Willa Brown, a pillar in aviation history, was the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license and commercial license in the United States. She was also the first African American woman to become an officer in the Illinois Civil Air Patrol.
Brown, a member of the Challenger Air Pilots Association, earned her Master Mechanic Certificate in 1935, and began instructing flight and ground school at Harlem Field, where she initially learned to fly.
Brown also served as the director of the Coffey School of Aeronautics, founded by her husband Cornelius Coffey, where she also held the ranks of lieutenant and adjutant. She served as the director when the school was chosen by the Civil Aeronautics Administration to host the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which trained thousands of pilots in the United States.
Brown’s role at the Coffey School led to countless African Americans earning their pilot’s licenses, and many earning admissions into the Army Air Forces through the War Training Service Program.
Brown’s historical achievements coupled with her teachings helped in raising a generation of black aviators which continues on today.