From the Hangars

Girls in Aviation Day 2020

Sep 25, 2020

2018 Delta Air Lines Girls in Aviation Day flight

September 26, 2020 marks the 6th annual Girls in Aviation Day, a day to promote and encourage girls to consider careers in the aviation industry. The Delta Flight Museum has been a site of this vital program in previous years, but this year the program will go virtual and give access to girls around the world.

In honor of the day, we are featuring a few women from our exhibition Half the Sky: Stories About Women in Aviation:


Patricia “Mother” Malone

Every white hair on my head is a stripe on some pilot’s sleeve somewhere in the world – Patricia “Mother” Malone

Born on the Fourth of July in 1924, few Delta employees are as celebrated as Patricia Malone. She began her aviation career training squadron pilots in 1944 as part of the U.S. Navy Waves (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). After the war, Malone worked training pilots for various commercial airlines, eventually accepting a position in 1960 at Northeast Airlines. In 1972, Northeast merged with Delta and Malone became an Operations Specification Instructor in the Pilot Ground Training Department.

She was a mother of four, but her nickname “mother” came from pilots who credited her with saving their careers as she developed manuals and procedures in plain English that allowed them to understand FAA regulations and proper operating procedure.

In 2009, a year after her death, Malone was posthumously inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame and in 2010 she was also included in the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.



Captain Joy Walker

I was a novelty. People would point and stare. It took some time to be accepted as a female pilot, from both colleagues and passengers. Back then, even the flight attendants were not on my side. I remember one time after I made a bad landing, I heard a female passenger say, “With that landing, we should have known it was a female pilot.” – Captain Joy Walker

In February 1973, when Frontier Airlines hired pilot Emily Howell Warner, it had been almost 40 years since a woman had been hired as a pilot for a U.S. airline. By 1978 there were about 300 female commercial pilots in the United States. Later in 1973, Delta Air Lines hired Joy Walker as the airline’s first female pilot. Walker started as a flight engineer on the DC-8.

Walker grew up in a small town near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her dad was a professional baseball player and encouraged Walker to participate in athletics. A college professor encouraged Walker to try flying and she took part time jobs in order to pay for flying lessons. She eventually became a FAA examiner in Africa, before applying for a pilot position with Delta.
Delta promoted Walker to captain on October 17, 1988, and she continued to fly for the airline until she retired in 2002. Walker remains committed to encouraged women to pursue careers in aviation through her participation in the Girls in Aviation program.


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