Ahmet Ali Çelikten

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Ahmet Ali Çelikten
Ahmet Ali Celikten with flight cap.jpg
Ahmet Ali (Çelikten) with flight cap
Birth nameİzmirli Alioğlu Ahmed
Nickname(s)Arap Ahmet Ali
İzmirli Ahmet Ali
İzmir, Aidin Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died1969 (aged 85–86)
Allegiance Ottoman Empire
Service/branch Ottoman Navy[1]
 Ottoman Air Force
 Turkish Naval Forces
 Turkish Air Force
Years of serviceOttoman Empire: 1908–1920
Turkey: 1920–1949
Battles/warsWorld War I
Turkish War of Independence

Ahmet Ali Çelikten[1][2][3] (born İzmirli Alioğlu Ahmed; 1883 – 1969), also known as Arap Ahmet Ali (English: Ahmet Ali the Arab)[2] or İzmirli Ahmet Ali (English: Ahmet Ali from İzmir), was an Ottoman-born Afro-Turkish aviator who was one of the first black pilots in aviation history.[4][5] He was one of the few black pilots in World War I, like African American Eugene Jacques Bullard (flying for France), William Robinson Clarke from Jamaica (flying for Britain),[6] Pierre Réjon from Martinique (flying for France)[7] and Domenico Mondelli from Somalia (flying for Italy).[8] Ahmet's maternal grandmother was born in Bornu (now in Nigeria) and was later brought to the Ottoman Empire.[4][9]


Ottoman naval aviators of the Naval Flight School (Deniz Tayyare Mektebi) at Aya Stefanos; left to right: pilot Ahmet Ali (Çelikten), Sami (Uçan), İhsan and observer Hüseyin Kâmil (Görgün).

Ahmet was born in 1883 in İzmir, in the Aidin Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire.[10] His mother, Zenciye Emine Hanım, was of Nigerian descent[11]; his father, Ali Bey, was of African Turkish descent.[12] He aimed to become a sailor and entered the Naval Technical School named Haddehâne Mektebi (literally "School of the Blooming Mill") in 1904.[12] In 1908, he graduated from this school as a First Lieutenant (Mülâzım-ı evvel).[12] And then he went to aviation courses in the Naval Flight School (Deniz Tayyare Mektebi) that was formed on 25 June 1914 at Yeşilköy.[1] He was then a member of the Ottoman Air Force.

During World War I, he married Hatice Hanım (1897–1991) who was an immigrant from Preveza.[3] He became one of the first black military pilots in aviation history when he started serving in November 1916. On 18 December 1917, Captain (Yüzbaşı) Ahmed Ali was sent to Berlin to complete aviation courses.[9] He died in 1969.

Ottoman Pilots in 1914/1915 next to a Blériot XI-2 monoplane. Ahmet Ali Çelikten can be seen next to the propeller..


To quote David Nicolle's book, The Ottoman Army 1914–1918, "Most Ottoman aircrew were recruited from the Turkish heartland ... others came from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire as far south as Yemen, or even from neutral Iran. Captain Ahmet was a mix of Arab-African and Turkish origin and may have been the first 'Black' Air Force pilot in aviation history, having received his 'wings' in 1914-15." The book features a photo of Ahmet in front of a Bleriot XI-2 trainer at the Yeşilköy flying school. The same photo is featured in "Over the Front", Volume 9, No. 3, Fall 1994. Ahmet's "wings" would seem to have been earned prior to Bullard's earning his brevet No. 6259 on 20 July 1917, though Bullard is often cited as history's first black military aviator.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Türk Deniz Havacılık Tarihi" in the official website of the Naval Air Base Command of the Turkish Naval Forces. (in Turkish)
  2. ^ a b Ajun Kurter, Türk Hava Kuvvetleri Tarihi, Cilt 5, Hava Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı, 2009, p. 299. (in Turkish)
  3. ^ a b Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -4 "Pilotlarla Dolu Bir Aile" Archived 12 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Posta, 20 March 2011. (in Turkish)
  4. ^ a b c NTV History Magazine Issue:26, March 2011[page needed]
  5. ^ Mark Johnson (2014). Caribbean Volunteers at War: The Forgotten Story of the RAF's 'Tuskegee Airmen'. Pen and Sword. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-4738-3487-3.
  6. ^ Royal Air Force Museum storyvault
  7. ^ Une autre histoire
  8. ^ Mauro Valeri, Il generale nero. Domenico Mondelli: bersagliere, aviatore e ardito, Ed. Odradek, Roma, 2015.
  9. ^ a b DÜNYANIN İLK SİYAH PİLOTU: ARAP AHMET Archived 11 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Havervitrin, 8 March 2011. (in Turkish)
  10. ^ Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -1, Posta, 20 March 2011. (in Turkish)
  11. ^ Mark Johnson (2014). Caribbean Volunteers at War: The Forgotten Story of the RAF's 'Tuskegee Airmen'. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-473-8348-73.
  12. ^ a b c Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -2, Posta, 20 March 2011. (in Turkish)

Further reading[edit]

  • David Nicolle, The Ottoman Army 1914-1918, Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, 1994.

External links[edit]