Ahmet Ali Çelikten

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Ahmet Ali Çelikten
Ahmet Ali Celikten in flight suit.jpg
Çelikten with his 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 Navy
 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 İzmirli Ahmet Ali (English: Ahmet Ali from Izmir), was an Ottoman-born Turkish aviator regarded as the first black pilot in history.[4][5][6][7][8][9] He was one of the first black males becoming a fighter pilot, receiving his “wings” in 1914. 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),[10] Pierre Réjon from Martinique (flying for France)[11] and Domenico Mondelli [it] from Eritrea (flying for Italy), first black pilot ever (he received his license by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on February 20, 1914).[12] Ahmet's maternal grandmother was born in Bornu (now in Nigeria) and was brought to what is now Turkey as part of the Ottoman slave trade.[8][13]


Ahmet was born in 1883 in Izmir (ancient Smyrna), in the Aidin Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire.[14] His mother, Zenciye Emine Hanım, was of Nigerian descent;[15] his father, Ali Bey, was also Afro-Turkish.[16] He aimed to become a sailor and entered the Naval Technical School Haddehâne Mektebi (literally "School of the Blooming Mill") in 1904.[16] In 1908, he graduated from this school as a First Lieutenant (Mülâzım-ı evvel).[16] And then he went to aviation courses in the Naval Flight School (Deniz Tayyare Mektebi), 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, Ahmed Ali was made a Captain (Yüzbaşı) and sent to Berlin to complete aviation courses.[13] Following the completion of these courses, he was assigned to the Izmir Naval Aircraft Company.[14]

Following the end of World War I, Ahmed Ali became involved with the Turkish War of Independence and supported the Turkish National Movement. He volunteered his services as a pilot at the Konya Military Air Base, in Konya, Turkey.[14] At this time, Turkish Nationalists enacted a plan to steal airplanes from Ottoman warehouses and bring them to Amasra, a port town on the Black Sea.[17] Ahmed was sent to Amasra in 1922 in order to assist with this operation. Pilots utilized these airplanes to monitor the Black Sea and protect their naval operations.[14]

Upon the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, a division was created to move aviation operations from Konya to Izmir.[14] Ahmed was assigned to this division and continued his service in Izmir. In 1928, he was appointed to the Air Undersecretariat, a division of the Turkish Air Force which operated under the Ministry of National Defense.[14]

Ahmed Ali retired in 1949 and not much is known about his later life. He died in 1969.


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.[8]



  1. ^ a b c "Türk Deniz Havacılık Tarihi" Archived 5 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine in the official website of the Naval Air Base Command of the Turkish Naval Forces. (in Turkish)
  2. ^ 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. ^ "THE AFRO-TURKS: A CALL FOR STUDY AND INCLUSION - ProQuest". www.proquest.com. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  5. ^ "World's First Black Fighter Pilot - Ahmet Ali Celikten". aviationfile.com. 3 December 2020. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  6. ^ Ndubuisi, Victor (5 April 2021). "History/Facts: Meet The World's First Black Pilot (Photos)". AnaedoOnline. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  7. ^ "Ahmet Ali Çelikten (1883-1969) •". 6 December 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  8. ^ a b c "Dünyanın İlk Siyah Pilotu". NTV History Magazine. No. 26. March 2011. p. 28.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Royal Air Force Museum storyvault
  11. ^ Une autre histoire
  12. ^ Mauro Valeri, Il generale nero. Domenico Mondelli: bersagliere, aviatore e ardito, Ed. Odradek, Roma, 2015.
  13. ^ a b DÜNYANIN İLK SİYAH PİLOTU: ARAP AHMET Archived 11 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Havervitrin, 8 March 2011. (in Turkish)
  14. ^ a b c d e f Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -1, Posta, 20 March 2011. (in Turkish)
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b c Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -2, Posta, 20 March 2011. (in Turkish)
  17. ^ "Amasra'da Deniz Teyyare İstasyonu". Amasra.Net (in Turkish). 29 December 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2020.

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]