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Hispanic Heritage Month Heroes – Week 1

Olga E. Custodio, the first Latina U.S. military pilot

Born to a military family in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1953, Olga E. Custodio went on to become the first Latina U.S. military pilot.

Custodio fulfilled her dream of becoming a commissioned military officer and then some. She was the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force military pilot training and served in the Air Force for 24 years, retiring in 2003 as a lieutenant colonel. Along the way, she received an Aviation Safety Award from the Air Force for superior airmanship, for safely landing her plane after birds hit it in bad weather during flight.

While serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserve to continue her military career, Custodio was hired as a pilot by American Airlines in 1988 and was later promoted to become one of the first Latina commercial airline captains. By the time she retired from American in 2008, she had more than 11,000 flight hours across North America, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. Of her career, Custodio said: “My mantra is ‘Querer es poder (wanting is power).’ I believe everyone has the potential to do it. They just have to believe in themselves enough to actually do it.”