Beverly Burns

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Beverly Lynn Burns
Born (1949-08-15) August 15, 1949 (age 69)
Baltimore, Maryland, US
Occupation Retired Continental Airlines captain
Known for First woman in the world to captain the Boeing 747 jumbo jet
Spouse(s) Captain Robert Allen Burns, Flight Instructor of Year, 1972
Parent(s) Milton and Marilyn Grodnitzky

Captain Beverly Lynn Burns is the first woman to captain the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.[1][2][3][4][5][6] On the afternoon of July 18, 1984, Burns made her maiden voyage as Captain when she commanded People Express aircraft 604 from Newark International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport.[7][8][9]

By the time she retired, in February 2008, she had been a captain with the airlines for twenty-seven years and amassed over twenty-five thousand hours of flight time. While with People Express she captained the Boeing 727, Boeing 737 and Boeing 747. Between 1987, when the company merged with Continental Airlines, and 2000, she added the DC-9, DC-10, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 to the list of jetliners she had captained.[10][11] Then, in May 2001, Burns became captain on one of the most technologically sophisticated airliners of its time, the Boeing 777.[12][13]

In addition to her qualifications on the flight deck, Burns had acquired an understanding of the airlines as a business. From 1971 to 1978, she worked as stewardess for American Airlines while attending flight school. In 1978, she held positions as a flight instructor and charter pilot for Hinson Airways. The following year, she flew as captain for Allegheny Commuter until 1981, when she went to work for People Express.[14]

While with People Express, Burns had a number of non-traditional duties. She worked in reservations; in scheduling; and as a gate agent, baggage handler, and avionics trainer. Varying the duties of pilots — an operating approach novel to the industry in the early 1980s — required the company's CEO to obtain special FAA authorization, an action that facilitated a number of firsts in the industry. For Burns it meant becoming the first woman to ever work as a certified aircraft dispatcher while performing duties as a line captain.[15]

Beverly Burns, first woman to captain the Boeing 747 airliner

Captain Burns received numerous awards and commendations. On January 31, 1985, she received the Amelia Earhart Award — presented by New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean and the CEO of People Express, Donald Burr — for her historic flight as captain of the Boeing 747 on July 18, 1984.[16][17] Prior to that award, on August 14, 1984, she received an Award of Recognition from Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer, which cited her as one of Baltimore's best. On August 16, she received a letter of congratulation from New Jersey Senator C. Louis Bassano, who prepared a resolution in her honor.[18] On August 21, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey credited her with "opening doors for millions of American women" and read her deeds into the Congressional Record. On October 17, Maryland Governor Harry Hughes sent a letter of congratulation and named her an "ambassador of goodwill" for the state.[19] On November 16, she received a letter of congratulation from President Ronald Reagan and was invited to the 50th American President Inaugural.[20]

More recent commendations included a 2001 citation from U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and a letter of congratulation, dated August 7, 2001, from President George W. Bush. On February 6, 2002, a proclamation by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley designated the date as Beverly Burns Day in Baltimore. In 2003, she received a Certificate of Appreciation from USAF General John W. Handy for outstanding support for Operation Iraqi Freedom while serving as a member of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.

Captain Burns' autobiography can be found on Kindle Books at[21]


  1. ^ Captain Burns receives Amelia Earhart Award on YouTube
  2. ^ Captain Burns on Channel 11 News on YouTube
  3. ^ Explore Baltimore County: Retired pilot shattered glass ceiling
  4. ^ Women in Aviation: Captain Archived January 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ EWR Turns 80: A History of Newark Liberty Airport
  6. ^ AOPA Pilot
  7. ^ Reitman, Valerie, "Elegant Opening for Elegant Airport Hotel," Daily Journal, Feb 1, 1985.
  8. ^ The Airline Executive, March 1985.
  9. ^ FAA Temp Airman Certificate, Form 8060-4(8-79), Issued 7-1-84 by Examiner Harty.
  10. ^ Captain Burns receives BWI Airport Award on YouTube
  11. ^ Captain Burns giving retirement speech on YouTube
  12. ^ "Woman Shatters Airline Barrier," Placard on wall of Baltimore-Washington Int’l Airport.
  13. ^ Bullard, Chuck, "Pioneer of Our Times," ALPA: Continental MEC Report, Fall 2002.
  14. ^ "Love is in the Air," February 2002.
  15. ^ FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate, Cert No. 3046531 Issued 5-5-1982.
  16. ^ "Marriott Corp Honors Amelia & 747 Boss," General Aviation News, Vol 36, No 9, Mar 4, 1985.
  17. ^ "Woman 747 Captain Receives Earhart Award," The Jewish Times, January 25, 1985.
  18. ^ Senator C. Louis Bassano, New Jersey Senate Resolution, Adopted July 30, 1984.
  19. ^ Maryland State Governor, Harry Hughes, Letter of Congratulation, Oct 17, 1984.
  20. ^ President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, Letter of Congratulation, Nov 16, 1984.
  21. ^