Leona Serao, 23, hopes to make history as the first Black woman to fly solo around the world. She is about to embark on a three-month journey through 33 countries on four continents, beginning 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,” Serao says on her website.
According to Serao’s website, she was born in the United States but raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where only three women hold commercial pilot licenses.
Serao’s father, who died before she graduated high school, was also a pilot, which inspired her to pursue a career as a pilot, though not without challenges. According to Flying Magazine, less than 2% of pilots in the United States are currently black.
Aside from a lack of flight time, the high cost of aviation school tuition has kept many Black people from entering the field.
After six months of intense study and about $70,000 spent on flight school, Serao overcame these obstacles but persisted, and by the end of 2020, she had obtained her pilot’s license, according to The Grio.
The aspiring pilot hopes that her historic flight will serve as an inspiration to other Black people who want to pursue careers in aviation. According to Yahoo News, there have been 142 solo flights around the world to date, but only 11 of the pilots have been women, and none have been Black.
She wants to challenge the current system, so she launched an online fundraising campaign to help her pay for expenses such as food, fuel, and lodging while in the air.
Serao’s announcement that she will make history this summer comes years after Jamaican-born United States pilot Barrington Irving became the first Black person to fly solo around the world. Irving was also 23 at the time of his trip in 2007.