National Hispanic Heritage Month: Olga E. Custodio

Aviation pioneer Olga E. Custodio was born in San Juan in 1953. She was admitted into the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Officer Candidate School and then accepted as a candidate for training as a USAF pilot. Custodio subsequently entered the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training School in 1980. After completion of this flight screening, Custodio was approved for undergraduate flight training at Laughlin Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas. When she graduated from this training, Custodio made history as the first female Hispanic-American military pilot.

Custodio’s first assignment as a pilot involved serving as a flight instructor for the Northrop T-38 Talon jet aircraft at Laughlin AFB. On one occasion when Custodio was flying a T-38 Talon in bad weather, a bird slammed into the plane. This resulted in engine failure, but Custodio was still able to safely land the aircraft.  She was awarded a USAF aviation safety award for how she handled this emergency.

Custodio was serving in the USAF Reserves in 1988 when she was hired as a commercial pilot for American Airlines. This assignment made her the first Hispanic-American commercial airline captain. By the time she retired from American Airlines in 2008, Custodio had piloted a variety of aircraft and logged more than 11,000 flight hours.

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