August 20th, 2018
The history of female flight in Italy at FlyDonna 2018: Fiorenza de Bernardi
When I started flying (1951) with my father on a small tourist plane, I had no special plans for the future. During the early years I flew for sports competing in Italy and other European countries, often in a pair with Graziella Sartori.
I was also lucky to become the co-pilot of a friend of my father, Mr. Robert Goemans, who was then the representative of Piper in Europe and Africa.
I took advantage of the authorisation that the Air Force gave to some civilians (already with some proven experience) to attend an instrumental course based on the military school of Alghero (1966), I took lessons from Alitalia instructors and, after passing the navigation exams, aerotechnics, meteorology, aeronautical medicine, etc., I obtained the commercial licence.
So I could be employed by Aeralpi in January 1967, becoming the first Italian airline pilot (and fourth or fifth in the world).
The pilots of the Aeralpi looked at me with skepticism but then they became my supporters and great friends. With Aeralpi we flew to Cortina, summer and winter with the "Twin Otter" twin-engine. We also flew for Alitalia with tickets AZ and AZ passengers who often asked, for the next flight, to fly with me again.
So I'm the first woman who flew for the Italian flag carrier, who nevertheless was not decided to make a regular contract to a woman.
In 1969 I was hired by Aertirrena and became the first female Captain in Italy. We did taxi flights, one of the most complete activities because you change routes and new routes at any time.
In this period I was sent to Moscow for a jet course: the Yak 40, a Russian three-engine that became my second home; three engines, able to land even on snow and clay. The owner of Aertirrena bought three of them based in Florence Peretola.
We ran regular lines, charter and demonstrative flights as the one to Australia, where we spent a whole month traveling far and wide. It was an extremely interesting journey also along the way to get there: India, Afghanistan, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Timor...
We also flew as Olympic in Greece carrying their passengers from Athens to the Aegean islands.
The regular lines from Florence were to Rome, Milan, Bologna, Albenga. Years before I had also become a glider pilot, a very fascinating sport, then, during the years of scheduled flights, I also attended the mountain flying course, becoming the first female pilot in Italy with a glacier pilot license, an incredible experience.
I owe this to my parents, to whom I will always be grateful for the freedom of my choices. Since I was a girl I was able to camp with friends, rock and ski in the mountains, and then my flights in a different and particular way.
In 1980 I got a course with Alitalia for the DC8, a big very interesting four-engine plane. In the meantime Aertirrena had become Avioligure and based at Fiumicino . We were flying to America and Africa. When this new company had to close, I returned to the Yak 40 (Cadabo) until I had a terrible car accident. This, unfortunately, forced me to retire a couple of years earlier than expected.
I founded the Italian Pilot Association, which has now become the Women's Association of Air (ADA), which also includes parachutist, airport managers and all the women who are part of aviation.
I am vice-president of the European Pilot Federation and a member of the 99 (an association to which all the pilots belong in the world) and I am a member of the ISA (International Association of Airline Pilots).