At 23, This U.S. Pilot raised in DR Congo is Looking to Become First Black Woman to Fly Solo Around the World


Leona Serao, age 23, aspires to become the first Black woman to fly alone across the globe shortly. She will finish her three-month journey, which will take her to 33 locations on four continents, starting in August in New York City.

“With my flight around the world, I want to pave the way for future generations, especially women and black women, to pursue their dreams without fear of failure and show them that anything is possible and address diversity and inclusion in aviation,” she writes on her website.

According to Serao’s website, she was born in the United States but was raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where only three women hold commercial pilot licenses. Although there were some challenges, she was encouraged to become a pilot by the fact that her father, who died before she finished high school, was also a pilot. Currently, less than 2% of pilots in the United States are Black. In addition to not having access to flying time, the high cost of attending aviation school has kept many Black individuals from working in the industry.

Serao overcame these obstacles and persisted; by the end of 2020, she had earned her pilot’s license after six months of rigorous study and nearly $70,000 spent on flight school, according to Yahoo News.

The aspiring pilot wishes to serve as an example for other Black people who wish to pursue careers in aviation. There have been 142 solo flights around the world, according to data published by Yahoo News, but only 11 of the pilots have been women, and none have been black. In an effort to challenge the established quo, Serao has started an online campaign to help her pay for things like food, fuel, and housing while she is in flight.

Years after American pilot Barrington Irving, who was born in Jamaica, became the first Black person to fly solo around the world, Serao said that he will make history this summer. Irving traveled in 2007 at the age of 23 as well.

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