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She's Like The Wind

The answer to last week's TUESDAY TRIVIA:

Who is she?


To answer the second part of that trivia question:

During her employment with British Airways, Barbara was one out of the 40 female pilots employed at the time to be qualified to fly the SuperSonic Transport (SST): Concorde.  Even though she started out as a hairdresser before finding her new life in aviation, she landed a position at London's Gatwick Airport as a controller.  How did she get there?  Leaving the beauty profession as a hairdresser to attend ATC school and graduating six years after.

Why the career change?

This is a question I would have loved to ask her but I will say that it took a special person such as herself to show the world what it means to soar the skies at record speeds with one of the world's most amazing aircraft.  What is also most amazing about Barbara is that she taught herself British Law, Constitutional Law, and Geography in order to study for the 'A' Levels which she missed having left school early.  She also managed to scrape up enough money by investing thousands of pounds to obtain private and commercial licenses.  She was also a flight instructor for sometime after that.  Her career as a pilot started to take off for a small commuter airline before going full throttle with  British Caledonian in 1984 flying the BAC-1-11s for three years. Barbara eventually upgraded over to the DC-10 shortly after.

British Caledonian merged with British Airways in 1988, and with this fact, history was ready to be written for this fine lady.  By 1992, Harmer was chosen to undergo an intensive six month conversion course to fly the world's fastest commercial transport.  By March of 1993, Harmer made her supersonic debut across the Atlantic as the first official long term qualified female pilot for the British Airways Concorde programme.  Her colleague over at Air France, Béatrice Vialle, had become the second of only two women to the fly the SST (SuperSonic Transport) Concorde on a regular basis.  (The very first female ever to pilot the Concorde was French test pilot Jacqueline Auriol.)

Not only taking to the skies, but also the seas was another aspect of Barbara Harmer that really hit home upon learning of her.  She was an experienced yacht master, a Captain that participated in many international tournaments with fellow Concorde crew members and also winning many of them.

Photo by Adam Butler/PA
By the time Air France and her company British Airways parked the Concorde altogether, she was a Senior Officer having had 10 years and many supersonic hours logged.  She left Concorde to transfer over to the Boeing 777 as a Captain until she negotiated and agreed to a voluntary leave from BA in 2009.

Harmer was scheduled to take a transatlantic voyage, not by flying a plane, but piloting her Archambault 35 yacht across the Atlantic this year (2013) for a major nautical event, however, she died of cancer on February 20, 2011 at the age of 57.

Barbara left us a legacy that is so remarkable and is truly an inspiration.  I, along with many others, will never forget the Concorde departures/arrivals out of JFK, CDG, and LHR on a daily basis.  Whenever I read her story over and over I can't help to think of the people in my personal life that have made similar contributions both above and on the water.  

British Airways responded to my first piece I wrote of her stating, 
"It was an honour to have her as a part of our team."

Not only was it an honour to have her as a apart of the British Airways team, but also the world aviation team as a whole.  Barbara left us all something to learn from.  Something that I will always take into my flight deck both on this website and in the planes I fly.

Barbara Harmer will always be the 
Captain Aboard every ship both 
above and on the water...

Spread the message about her and what an impact she made not only to our industry but to the science/technology community as a whole.



  1. Jeremy... this is such a fabulous story. I will help you spread the word. Emailing you soon!

  2. Thank you so much, Karlene. Looking forward very much to that e-mail and to my reply!

  3. Amazing story thank you for sharing Jeremy!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Justin and you are welcome!

  4. Jeremy,

    Thank you very much for your great story about Barbara Harmer, the world's and UK's
    first and the last female commercial supersonic flight pilot. She was so great!

    makoto tajima

    1. Makoto Tajima, my pleasure. Her story needs to be spread as she is the modern day Amelia Earhart. Definitely an icon for women in aviation.


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