Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Leah Hing, First Chinese-American Woman to Get a Pilot’s License

Leah Hing, who was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1907, achieved a historic record in 1934 when she became the first U.S.-born Chinese-American woman to earn her airplane pilot’s license. While the better known Katherine Sui Fun Cheung obtained her own airplane pilot’s license about two years earlier, she had been born in China and did not become an American citizen until after receiving her license.

Hing took flying lessons from the legendary aerobatic pilot John Gilbert “Tex” Rankin at Pearson Field in southwestern Washington State. Her subsequent aviation experience included performing in a number of air shows. During World War II, Hing served as an instrument mechanic at the Portland Army Air Base. She died in 2001 at the age of 94. A Fleet biplane that she owned and operated is now on display at Pearson Air Museum, located at the same place where she learned how to fly.

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