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Emily Howell Warner, the first female US commercial airline pilot, is from Colorado

Posted at 3:36 PM, Mar 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-08 21:34:15-05

DENVER -- People called her "Captain Emily."

Pointing at one model airplane of a Cessna 150 and walking to another model, Emily Howell Warner talks about the many miniature planes that symbolize all the ones she has flown in real life. 

Once dubbed "The Airline's First Lady," Warner did set out to make history, but while taking her first plan ride at 17-years-old (because she was considering becoming a flight attendant), the co-pilot saw her fascination with flying.

"He said, 'Why don't you take some flying lessons?' And I said, 'Can a girl take flying lessons?' And he says, 'Sure you can!'" said Warner with a smile.

She remembers paying for the $13-a-week lessons with her $38-a-week paycheck, eventually getting her private pilot license and becoming a flight instructor.

"The guys I was teaching would go off to the airlines," she remembers. "And I thought, 'I wish I could do that.' And then my 'Wish I could do that' became 'Well, why can't I do that?"

After years of applying for a job, she said, Frontier Airline's Vice President agreed to meet with her.

"And then at the very end, he said, 'Well, what would we do for a uniform for you?' And I kind of laughed, and I said, 'Mr. O'Neil, that's the least of your problems. Pantsuits are in style,'" she said. "And then I knew I was in."

Captain Emily would go on to be many firsts: the first permanent female pilot hired by a U.S. commercial airline, first female captain, first leader of the first all-female Continental Airlines flight crew.

Now, the Granby airport's Emily Warner Field is named after her. But she said what really matters to her is all those firsts that helped pave the way for other women to reach for the sky.

"After I got hired by an airline, then another airline hired a woman, and then pretty soon, some other airlines were hiring women," she said. "There's a lot of women pilots now. We're taking over," she said with a wink and a smile.

The pantsuit uniform she wore is now in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and Emily is retired and lives in Denver with her family and plenty of grandchildren, who can be proud of her legacy.