Sabiha Gökçen was a Turkish aviator and the world’s first female fighter pilot.
Gökçen was one of the 8 adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. It was Ataturk who gave her the surname Gökçen, meaning ‘belonging to the sky’. In 1935 he took Gökçen to the opening ceremony of the Turkishbird Flight School, which inspired her to attend the Air Force Academy the following year.
She honed her skills by flying bomber and fighter planes in the 1st Aircraft Regiment and in 1937 took part in the military operation against the Dersim rebellion, also known as the Dersim Massacre, making her the first Turkish female air force combat pilot. A report of her actions describes the "serious damage" inflicted by the 50kg bomb she dropped upon a group of 50 fleeing “bandits.” She was awarded the Turkish Aeronautical Assosciation’s first Jeweled Medal for her performance in this operation.
In 1938 Gökçen carried out a five-day flight around the Balkans to great acclaim, and continued to fly until 1964. Throughout her career, she flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions. An airport in Istanbul is named after her.
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