Who were the first female astronomers? The first woman to teach her son to fly? What are Night Witches and why are they special?

“Sky Heroines of the World” answers these questions, telling the stories of 2,000 female pilots throughout time, celebrating the special role of women in aviation history.

AeroTime has spoken with the author of the book, professor Radmila Tonković. Having served in the Air Force Air Defense Command of Yugoslavia/Serbia for 24 years, prof. Tonković herself is well familiar with aviation.

Could you tell us briefly about your career in the Air Force and Anti-aircraft Defense unit: what positions did you hold and what kind of aircraft did you fly?

I served in the Air Force and Air Defense Command of Yugoslavia / Serbia, consisting of 400 people, for 24 years. During this time, I have established strong professional relations, gained the respect and high level of honor from my colleagues and high command. I held the post of the main and the only authorized officer to sign documentation for the use and modifications of airplanes and armaments, as well as for modifying combat air defense weapons and military aviation equipment. Only after my signature planes and pilots could fly, which is a very big responsibility. I also had to fly on different planes.

I was also one of editors ‒ and the only woman ‒ in the aviation magazine Aeromagazin for 18 years.  Researching aviation history, I have realized that women and their role are not well covered and recorded. During my career, I have written more than 1,000 published articles on aviation in Serbia and abroad ‒ articles on women in aviation are especially popular.

“Bold and unusual women who have left a deep mark in the history of aviation. Pilots, cosmonauts, doctors, engineers, technicians, military pilots ‒ women who bravely walked before their time, independent, energetic and resolute to move the boundaries of what is  possible, to achieve the impossible”.

Given that the entire planet Earth is reserved for men and they are given priority in all life segments, I realized that all professions, hobbies and sports are fully designed for men ‒ women are rarely present or not present at all. This is also the case in aviation, which motivated me to dedicate a book to bold and unusual women who have left a deep mark in the history of aviation. Pilots, cosmonauts, doctors, engineers, technicians, military pilots ‒ women who bravely walked before their time, independent, energetic and resolute to move the boundaries of what is possible, to achieve the impossible.

Yet there are very few written traces and information about them.

You must have encountered many stereotypes working in a male-dominated industry - what was the prevailing one? How did you deal with such views?

Of course, stereotypes in male professions are present, but I look at it without prejudice. I am sure that there is no significant difference between men and women and I do not accept division of male and female works and professions. Men consider themselves leaders in aviation and do not believe in gender equality in this industry, which is why women will have to fight for their place in aviation. But if you, as a woman, with your mental strength can prove that you are successful and equal, male pilots, like true gentlemen, will recognize and appreciate you. I never had any problems in this regard ‒ we are partners, friends, and true professionals.

“In the course of my research into the history of aviation, I realized that women and their role are not well covered and recorded”.