LIEUTENANT COMMANDER BRENDA ROBINSON
Brenda Robinson was born 1956 and grew up in North Wales Pennsylvania, the only daughter of Susan and Edward Robinson. In 1961, her kindergarten teacher sent a note home, concerned about Brenda’s desire to become a secretary on the moon. This was only the beginning.
By 9 years old Brenda was interested in all things aircraft travel related. When she was 11 years old her father promised to send her out to Illinois (by Plane) to visit her cousin if she got good grades. She did! So, Brenda took her first airplane ride from Philadelphia to Chicago on United Airlines. This is where her story begins.
Brenda entered a career study program at Wings Field in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, as a high school student. She thought that being a woman in Aeronautics meant being a flight attendant — but thanks to that career study program, she was able to broaden her view of aviation and i.t was there she decided to become an air traffic controller.
“When I got to go to an air traffic control tower I stepped onto the tower, looked around and said this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life?” Robinson said.
At the suggestion and recommendation of the head Air Traffic Controller at the North Philadelphia Airport, she was encouraged to apply to Dowling College, NY, one of the best aviation schools on the East Coast and accredited by the (FAA) Federal Aviation Administration. At Dowling College, her freshman year she was one of five women studying Aeronautics. After the first semester, she learned that MacArthur Airport, Islip, NY, offered flying lessons at a 10% discount to Dowling students. It didn’t come easy. Flying was very expensive and when she ran out of money she had to stop flying. With a heavy academic load, Brenda still held down a job just to meet personal financial expenses. While at Dowling Brenda met her first woman pilot, a wonderful French woman who was a flight instructor from whom she learned much and that was when she decided flying could and would become her life.
She eventually became the first black woman in Dowling’s history to graduate with a degree in Aeronautics, and also earned a pilot’s license. Brenda earned her private pilot certificate at MacArthur Airport in Islip, New York during her senior year at Dowling.
Robinson then went on to join the U.S. Navy in 1977, just one year after women were authorized to attend the Naval Academy.
“At the time they were selecting 10 women a year out of the nation and I was one of those 10,” she said. “They were opening a door, I didn’t know was closed,” Robinson said.
Her 1977 selection as one of 10 women nationwide to attend the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, launched her on a path to become a naval aviator. Brenda became the first African American female graduate from Aviation Officer Candidate School. She earned her wings of gold on June 6, 1980, at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. As call sign “Raven,” Brenda became the first African American female certified for C-1A carrier onboard delivery carrier landings on USS America in January 1981.
Robinson was the 59th female to enter naval flight training program September of 1979 and became the 42nd to earn her wings, June 6th 1980 in Corpus Christi, TX. Brenda was the second woman in history to carrier qualify; landing her C-1A on USS America, January 1981.
No matter what she accomplished, Robinson always felt she had to prove she was qualified.
“Any kind of situation where I’m flying with someone new, they are always surprised that I can do exactly what everybody else did,” she said.
She said she especially felt that way as an African American woman.
“Since I didn’t look like the model in the norm, then the thought that I maybe already know wasn’t given to me,” Robinson said. “I had to earn it every time.”
She amassed 115 carrier landings while transporting mail, cargo, and passengers to aircraft carriers. Her entire career is peppered with firsts for African American women in the U.S. Navy: flight instructor, evaluator, and VIP transport pilot to name a few.
In 1992, Brenda transitioned to the Naval Reserves and was hired by American Airlines. She was among the first African American female pilots at American and flew with them for 17 years aboard Boeing 727, 757, and 767 aircraft.
LCDR Brenda Robinson’s Navy career entailed flying 7 types of aircraft.
• Landed on Aircraft carriers (115 traps), carrying mail, cargo, and passengers in the C 1A (COD) Carrier Onboard Delivery.
• Flew bomb disposal teams and passenger transport missions out of Guam to the Pacific Micronesia Islands, Philippines, and Japan in the Super King Air 200. She was the Unit Evaluator (check airman) in Guam, as well as flight instructor both in Guam and
• Pensacola Florida where she taught beginner flight training formation, night flights, and basic instruments.
• In Washington D.C. Brenda flew Admirals, Senators, Congressmen, Generals, Chief of Naval Operations, Secretary of the Navy and other VIP’s four stars and higher in the Sabreliner and Gulfstream III, both Lear jet type aircraft.
• In San Diego, she flew the DC-9 transporting Troops and cargo around the world. Brenda participated in the gulf war, both Desert Shield and Storm, flying throughout areas such as Fujairah of the United Arab Emirates. From Fujairah, she flew regularly into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Europe.
In 1992, Brenda transitioned into the Naval Reserves and was hired by American Airlines. She flew with distinction and Brenda’s photo hangs prominently in the hallway of the American Airlines Flight Academy. After 17 years of flying commercially, she retired from American Airlines giving her a total of 34 years of in the skies.
In 2002 Lieutenant Commander Brenda E. Robinson retired from the Naval Reserves with 20 years’ service.
In 2014 she founded the Aviation Camp for the Carolinas to encourage youth about aviation careers.
In 2016 Brenda was the first female military aviatrix to be inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame.
Today, Brenda shares her success stories in a number of ways. She published Success is an Attitude: Goal Achievement for a Lifetime in 1995. She is a sought-after speaker at schools, and launched the Aviation Camps of the Carolinas in late 2014. She is currently working on her next book, The Very First Raven, detailing her life as a pioneering aviatrix
Today, she calls Charlotte, NC home and serves an instructor at FlyRight in Concord, NC.
She’s also the founder of Aviation Camps of the Carolinas, where she teaches and offers teenagers hands-on opportunities to learn about aviation at airports around the nation, and teaches goal achievement and lessons learned from her unique life and career.
“The world is as they see it and it’s very finite until you press the button that gives them excitement,” she said.
After 45 years of flying, Robinson is pushing the career path forward that was once deemed nontraditional for all walks of life, as it changed hers for the better.
COMMANDER ELAINE LURIA
Elaine Luria was born in Birmingham, AL in 1975. She graduated from Indian Springs School, a private school in Alabama and joined the Navy at 17 years old.
“We encouraged her to try things and we allowed her to do things that maybe other girls weren’t doing,” said her mother, Michelle. Elaine also earned a black belt in karate.
When she returned from a summer camp at the Naval academy her parents were not surprised she wanted to enlist.
She maintained a 4.0 in the Academy at least for her first year, which kept the upperclassmen off her back. She graduated in 1997 with a major in physics and history and a minor in French.
When Elaine joined the Navy, it was before women could serve on combatant ships. However, by the time she graduated that rule had changed. Elaine was able to join the Navy nuclear power program and serve on aircraft carriers.
From 1998 to 1999 While Elaine was stationed on the USS O’Brien, she was forward-deployed to Japan. She was also deployed to the Middle East for six months on a mission to assist with enforcing oil sanctions against Iraq.
In the year 2000, Elaine became one of the first women to attend the US Naval Nuclear Power School.
From there until 2002, she is stationed on board the USS Harry S. Truman. During this tour, she completes her Naval Nuclear Engineer certification and serves as the Engineering Officer of the Watch which has to do with operating the nuclear reactors.
In 2004 she completes her Master’s degree in Engineering.
In 2005 she attended Surface Warfare Officer Department Head Training. She also met her husband, Robert Blondin, and they married in 2005.
From 2005 to 2008, she deploys three more times to the middle east.
From 2010 to 2012 she attends the Naval war college and then from 2014 to 2017 she Commanded a combat-ready unit of 400 sailors as the Commanding Officer of Assault Craft Unit TWO.
Elaine served for 20 years and retired in 2017 at the rank of Commander which is an O5.
In 2018 she was Elected to serve as Congresswoman for Virginia’s Second Congressional District.
It is a heavy Navy district which also has eight major military installations. There is a large Coast Guard presence as well as two NASA facilities. Pretty much everything in her district is economically is tied to Navy or the DoD.
One thing of hers stood out to me in particular in January of 2019 she cosponsored H.R. 129, the No Budget, No Pay Act, to prevent members of Congress from receiving their pay when they do not pass a budget on time.
She has also introduced bills to help Gold Star families. Working to fix to the tax code for Gold Star families. Children who are receiving survivor benefits due to the loss of a parent, either on active duty or service-related disability, have been taxed as of last year at a 37-percent rate. The bill she introduced would reduce that to between 12 and 15 percent
She focuses on veterans. Working on cost-of-living adjustments for disabled veterans.
She has also working on a fix for blue water Navy veterans, H.R. 299. This is for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange when they were off the coast of Vietnam, and they were not previously recognized as having a service-related exposure and therefore service-related disability from their illnesses.
She has also been active in committees that highlight the importance of burn pit registries for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.