Black Woman Pilot Prepares to Make History Five Times With 3-Month Solo Flight

Leona Serao, 23, is preparing for a historic flight across the globe.

The young pilot will become the first Black woman to fly solo around the world after she completes a three-month flight to 33 countries across four continents. Serao will start the journey in early August, taking off from New York City.

“The fact that I’m going to be the first one, means I’m going to be able to inspire other Black and other African people who want to join the aviation field,” she told Yahoo News.

Serao was born in the U.S. and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s second-largest country where only three women out of nearly 100 million inhabitants hold pilot licenses, according to her Fly Nona website.

“It is a challenge because it’s a male-dominated field and women didn’t really get the opportunity to be pilots before,” she said. “We couldn’t even drive before [the 20th century]. And in the aviation industry, it stayed like that.”

The flight is her opportunity to address diversity and inclusion in aviation. “With my flight, I want to pave the way for future generations, and especially women and Black women, to pursue their dreams without fear of failure and show them that anything is possible,” she wrote.

Fate on a Folded Wing reported that Earthrounders showed a total of 142 solo flights around the world that have been completed. Only 11 pilots have been women; none have been Black. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that out of over 158,000 licensed pilots in the U.S., around 4,100 are Black and about 150 are Black women.

Serao trained at a Florida flight school and studied aviation business administration with a focus on supply chain management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She became a licensed pilot at the end of 2020. 

When Serao returns home from her round-the-world journey, she will hold five historic titles: the first African Woman to fly solo around the world; the youngest African to fly solo around the world; the first Congolese to fly solo around the world; the first pilot to fly solo with the Ground Data Black Box Tempeus around the world; and the first woman to fly solo with the Ground Data Black Box Tempeus around the world.

An online campaign has been set up to cover food, fuel, and lodging costs during Serao’s trip around the world.