Barbara Harmer

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Barbara Harmer
Born (1953-09-14)14 September 1953
Loughton, United Kingdom
Died 20 February 2011(2011-02-20) (aged 57)
Chichester, United Kingdom
Cause of death Cancer
Nationality British
Aviation career
Known for First qualified female Concorde pilot

Barbara Harmer (14 September 1953 – 20 February 2011[1]) was the first qualified female Concorde pilot.

Born in Loughton, Essex, the youngest of four daughters, she was raised in Bognor Regis, a seaside resort town and civil parish in the Arun District of West Sussex, England, where she attended a convent school.[2] She left school aged 15 to pursue a career in hairdressing.[2]

Harmer's first experience in the aviation industry was five years later when she left hairdressing to become an air traffic controller at London Gatwick Airport.[2] When she took on the job of air traffic controller Harmer decided to study for A Levels with the intention of doing a law degree.[3] She obtained A levels in Geography, English Law, Constitutional Law and Politics.[citation needed] She also began flying lessons, gained her Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and became an instructor at Goodwood Flying School.[2] Harmer studied for two years to gain a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), which she obtained in May 1982. She then made over 100 applications before securing a job as pilot at Genair, a small commuter airline based at Humberside Airport.[2]

In March 1984, Harmer joined British Caledonian and flew BAC One-Elevens for three years.[2] She then started flying the long haul McDonnell Douglas DC-10. In 1987, British Caledonian merged with British Airways, the airline operating Concorde in the UK.[2] At that time, British Airways employed over 3000 pilots, but only 60 of them were women and no woman had ever piloted Concorde. Harmer was chosen to undergo the intensive six-month conversion course for Concorde in 1992.[2]

On 25 March 1993 Harmer became the first qualified female Concorde pilot and later that year made her first Concorde flight as First Officer to New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).[3] Jacqueline Auriol was the first woman to fly Concorde as a test pilot.[4]

By the time Concorde was withdrawn from service in October 2003, Harmer had served 10 years as a pilot flying regular scheduled services.[2] In 2001, an Air France pilot, Béatrice Vialle, had become the second of only two women to fly Concorde on regular routes by making some 35 trips between Paris and New York before the service was withdrawn.[3][5][6] After Concorde, Harmer converted to the Boeing 777 until taking voluntary redundancy in 2009.[2]

Harmer's interests were not all in the air as she was a qualified commercial yachtmaster, often taking part in international events commanding fellow Concorde crew members and winning several races.[2] She also created a Mediterranean-styled garden at her home in Felpham, West Sussex overlooking the English Channel.[2] Harmer intended to take part in a transatlantic event in 2013 in her yacht Archambault 35 but succumbed to cancer.[2] She died at St. Wilfrid's Hospice, Chichester, aged 57.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Barbara HARMER Obituary". The Times. 23 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Barbara Harmer". The Daily Telegraph. 17 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Boswell (27 February 2011). "Barbara Harmer - ATC/Goodwood/Genair/BCAL/BA". FLYER (forum). Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Jacqueline Auriol". Air University. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Air France - une Histoire d'Amour" (in French). 12 June 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Concorde question". 9 September 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 

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