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Olga E. Custodio (6262 views - Transportation - Air Water Earth)

Lieutenant Colonel Olga E. Custodio (born 1953) is a former United States Air Force officer who made history when she became the first female Hispanic U.S. military pilot. She was the first Hispanic woman to complete U.S. Air Force military pilot training. Upon retiring from the military, she became the first Hispanic commercial airline captain.
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Olga E. Custodio

Olga E. Custodio

Olga E. Custodio
Olga E. Custodio
Then Lieutenant Custodio climbing down from the cockpit of a T-38
Born 1953
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Allegiance United States of America

 United States Air Force

Air Force Reserve
Years of service 1980–2003
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Other work American Airlines Pilot - first Hispanic woman to become a commercial airline captain

Lieutenant Colonel Olga E. Custodio [note 1] (born 1953) is a former United States Air Force officer who made history when she became the first female Hispanic U.S. military pilot. She was the first Hispanic woman to complete U.S. Air Force military pilot training. Upon retiring from the military, she became the first Hispanic commercial airline captain.[1]

Early years

Custodio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her father, a sergeant in the United States Army, was often stationed in various countries where the United States has its military installations. Custodio and the rest of the family would accompany him on his overseas assignments. Custodio began her primary education in Taiwan. She also attended schools in New Jersey, Iran and Paraguay.[1]

The family returned to Puerto Rico when she was 15 years old. She graduated high school at age 16, and was immediately accepted into the University of Puerto Rico. Custodio's father, and all the traveling she did at a young age, were key factors in her choice of career - she decided to join the military. While in college she attempted to join the university’s ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program, but was told that only men were allowed.[1]

Military career

Custodio earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Puerto Rico and worked for various industries before landing a job in the accounting department of Prinair (Puerto Rico International Airlines). There she met Edwin Custodio, with whom she would eventually have two children. She later worked for the US Department of Defense (DoD) in Panama. With the support of her husband, she presented herself before Headquarters, Air Force Military Personnel Center (AFMPC) to apply for the United States Air Force Officer Training School. Upon admission, Custodio was accepted as a pilot candidate to become a United States Air Force pilot.[1]

She entered the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training School in January 1980. After successful completion of Flight Screening she entered Officer Training School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. She qualified for Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas and graduated the following year, thus becoming the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force military pilot training.[1]

Her first military assignment was that of instructor pilot at Laughlin AFB. She was the first female to become a Northrop T-38 Talon (T-38) UPT flight instructor at that base.[1] The T-38 Talon is the Air Force’s two-seat, supersonic jet trainer. On one occasion a bird struck the engine of her plane in bad weather while she was in flight. She was able to overcome the emergency and safely land her plane. Because of this she was recognized by the Air Force, and awarded the HQ AETC Aviation Safety Award for superior airmanship.[2]

Custodio was later assigned to Randolph Air Force Base where she was also the first female T-38 Instructor Pilot.[1] During her career she also served as Pilot Instructor Training; T-41 Flight Screening - Operations Officer and Check Pilot.

Custodio retired from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel in October 2003, after serving in the military for 23 years and 10 months. Her last assignment as an Air Force Reserve officer was that of accountability and readiness the Directorate of Personnel, HQ USAF.[3]

Commercial airline captain

In June 1988, while she was serving in the US Air Force Reserve, she was hired by American Airlines as a commercial pilot. Custodio became the first Latina commercial airline captain. During her years with American, she flew various types of aircraft. She piloted the Boeing 727, Fokker 100, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 to various countries in Europe, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. She also flew to Mexico, Canada and to various cities in the United States. Custodio retired from American Airlines in February 2008, with over 11,000 flight hours.[1]

Later years

Custodio retired from the military after 24 years of service and lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband. There she founded "Dragonfly Productions LLC," a production company that creates personal film documentaries. In 1992, she founded the Ballet Folklorico Borikèn, the Puerto Rican folk ballet.[1][2]

Custodio is also the vice president of the Hispanic Association of Aviation and Aerospace Professionals (HAAAP). The organization inspires Latinos in the San Antonio area to seek civilian and military aviation careers, by taking them on detailed and encyclopedic airport surveys, where they tour various airplanes and control towers.[1][2]


Among the many associations in which Custodio is a member are the following:[1][2][3]

  • Charter member of the Women Military Aviators Association
  • The Women in Aviation, International, Inc.
  • Order of Daedalians
  • The Allied Pilots Association.

Education and professional certificates

Besides the Bachelor of Arts degree which she earned in the University of Puerto Rico, Custodio has also earned the following:[1][2][3]

  • Air Transport Pilot certificate with single and multiengine land and instrument ratings.
  • Flight Engineer Certificate – Turbojet Powered ratin
  • Radiotelephone Operator permit
  • FAA Medical Certificate


Custodio was recognized twice by the Senate of Puerto Rico. In 2001, she was recognized by Elizabeth Arden/Revista Imagen of Puerto Rico as one of the recipient of La Belleza Inteligente 2001 award.[1][2][3]

See also

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Olga E. Custodio", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0. There is a list of all authors in Wikipedia

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