Today marks International Women’s Day, and we're celebrating Women’s History Month! Amidst all of the pride and excitement, we couldn’t help but reminisce about all the amazing wāhine (women) who help us thrive as Hawai‘i’s airline. Our female employees have helped pave the way for our nine decades of success (and counting), and in the process, served as an inspiration for more women to join the industry.
Their legacy lives on when we celebrate their stories, like the first-ever all-female flight, the first woman to become a captain in our company, and the 3,503 ladies* who represent our growing Hawaiian Airlines ‘ohana.
Please join us in remembering some of our favorite memories of female movers and shakers:
Sending Our S-38s Off with A Pop, Fizz, and Clink! – November 11, 1929
Outside the hangar of Inter-Island Airways at Honolulu’s John Rodgers Field, two amphibious Sikorsky S-38s – named Hawai‘i and Maui – made history as our first aircraft to fly the Hawaiian skies. On an early Monday morning, the planes received a public christening in front of thousands of people who gathered to witness the inaugural flights to Hilo.
Territory of Hawai‘i Governor Lawrence Judd recognized the momentous achievement in air travel, and his daughter Betty famously broke a bottle of champagne on the nose of Sikorsky Hawai‘i. Sikorsky Maui received a similar farewell before the two aircraft took to the air with a special escort to Diamond Head by 49 Army and Navy planes.
'Rosie the Riveter' Gets Her Wings – January 8, 1942
At the peak of World War II, Hawaiian Airlines hired its first female hostesses: Momi Jacobs, Leolani Blaisdell, Ulalei Frendo and Nora Auna Kaaua (not photographed in order).
Men traditionally filled the role of greeting our guests, handling baggage, fueling the plane, and assisting pilots. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, men were drafted into service and women stepped in to fill their shoes, with an increased focus on the in-flight experience.
Halani Makes Her Sky-High Debut into the World – July 29, 1954
A beautiful baby girl was born aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight that departed Kahului, Maui in the summer of 1954. Her parents named her Halani, combining Hawaiian Airlines’ initials and lani, the Hawaiian word for sky or Heaven. Pictured above are Halani and Captain Hicks, the pilot who was flying the aircraft she was born in, getting ready to take off on a special celebratory flight as part of a 16th birthday party our company threw her.
Pualani Graces the Hawaiian Skies – October 1973
Hawaiian Airlines unveiled a new logo to grace the sky: the proud gaze of Pualani. Known as “Flower of the Sky,” Pualani is a distinct symbol of our 90-year history, and one of the few feminine figures to front an airline.
While her appearance has changed throughout the years, Pualani has always been our beacon of Hawaiian hospitality. Contrary to popular belief, she was not modeled after any of the Miss Hawai‘i winners. Her strong presence and features were conceptualized as a real-life representation of our company’s mission and aloha for the Islands.
Welcoming Our First Female Pilot – November 1, 1978
Hawaiian Airlines hired its first female captain, Sharyn Emminger, in the late 1970s. She flew several routes throughout her 15-year tenure and flew our Short SD-330 fleet. Today, her name lives on through her son Reid Emminger, a captain for our new, fuel-efficient Airbus A321neo fleet.
Wāhine Takeover – March 6, 1979
A group of women at Hawaiian Airlines made history by becoming the first all-women crew to operate a certified U.S. air carrier on regularly scheduled commercial service. Captain Sharyn Emminger, First Officer Karen Squyers and flight attendant Trude Asada crewed a Short SD-330 aircraft carrying guests from Honolulu to Moloka‘i
The Legacy Continues – Present Day
Women today represent about 10 percent** of Hawaiian Airlines’ pilot workforce, a rate higher than the U.S. commercial airline average of about six percent, according to Women in Aviation International.
To learn more about modern-day wāhine leading the way at Hawaiian Airlines, click here.
* Statistic as of December 31, 2018
** Statistic as of February 2019