On Saturday, March 16th of 2019, pilot Wendy Rexon and first officer Kelly Rexon made history as the first mother and daughter flight team in the history of commercial aviation. Aviation is a male-dominated industry so it can still be shocking to see female pilots in the cockpit, much less a mother and daughter flight team.
In 2019, according to the Centre for Aviation, female pilots only made up 4.4% of commercial pilots in both the US and the UK. This makes it even more impressive that the Rexons fly Boeing 757 Delta Airlines flights together.
The flight took off out of New York City’s JFK airport and landed in Los Angeles. The two also encountered an emergency situation when smoke and fumes filled the cockpit. Thankfully, the two successfully managed the situation and led the flight to safety.
Kelly Rexon has been flying planes since age 16, and recently instructed her younger sister, who also hopes to make it as a female pilot. Their uncle Bill Brown is also a pilot, being retired from Northwest Airlines, as is their father, a pilot with American airlines.
The airline industry has seen a slow rise in women taking roles as pilots in recent years. In fact, according to the Federal Aviation Administration pilot certificates held by women have nearly doubled in recent years. Female pilots, in fact, have increased by 19% over the last decade.
Many airlines have been emphasizing the importance of women in the cockpit. There are specific programs that target women like Women in Aviation International. These programs seek to close the gender gap. By encouraging women to be pilots from a young age, these programs are making strides toward equality.
Passengers on the Delta flight captained by the Rexon mother and daughter duo were thrilled to be in attendance at such a historic moment in aviation history. The image of the two in the cockpit blew up on Twitter after a passenger shared a tweet with the photograph.
Children and adults alike were asking flight attendants to visit the cockpit before takeoff to meet the pair and congratulate them. In 2019, Delta Airlines flew the young women from its Women Inspiring our Next Generation program in the first flight where everyone involved (gate agents, attendants, pilots, dispatchers) were women. Initiatives like these make it possible for more young women like Kelly Rexon to aspire to be pilots and mothers like Wendy Rexon to see their daughters succeed in the field of aviation.