World’s oldest flight instructor and active pilot: Robina Asti

Erwan Hesry

The journey from WWII veteran, transgender female to the world’s oldest active pilot and flight instructor – that is the unique story of 99-year-old Robina Asti. Since her gender transition in 1976, Robina faced multiple challenges, including changing her pilot and driver’s license, receiving her survivor’s benefits, and widow welfare.

Throughout her lifetime, Asti fought for LGBTQ’s community rights and established a non-profit organization, which helps transgender seniors who face similar challenges.

Also, Asti always had an enormous passion for aviation which led her name to be added to the Guinness World Records book by becoming the world’s oldest active pilot.

Extraordinary life journey through the cinema screen

In 2014, the story of Robina Asti was captured and presented in a short documentary, Flying Solo: A Transgender Widow Fights Discrimination. At that time, 93-year Asti told about how her life went from being a WWII veteran pilot to being a transgender woman, who fights to be treated like any other female.

Also, Asti tells how her life has changed after her husband’s death, as she became a transgender widow.

Asti’s movie was shown in multiple LGBTQ community film festivals in the U.S. and Europe.

Combat missions and love for aeronautics

21-year Robina Asti, at that time Robert Astey, joined the U.S. Navy to operate combat missions after the U.S. entered World War II. She was serving combat missions in the Pacific. After WWII, she retired as a U.S. Navy pilot, ranked as a Lieutenant Commander

Even after Asti finished working in the U.S. Navy, she still had a big passion for aviation and started working as a flight instructor.

Robina, the actively-licensed Navigator and Flight instructor, still teaches her students to fly an aircraft on the weekends.

The world’s oldest active pilot and flight instructor

In July 2020, 99-year Robina gave a recurrency lesson as a flight instructor to her student and introduced herself to the Guinness World Records book. Asti took off with her student at Riverside Municipal Airport in Riverside, California. It was her last airport-based lesson.

With her last flight, Robina took the world’s oldest active pilot record from Ernie Smith of Red Oak, Iowa, who had his last flight while being 98-years-old.

In addition, 99-year-old Asti aims for two places in the book of records, one for being the world’s oldest currently active pilot and another – for being the world’s oldest currently active flight instructor.

Long-years fight for LGBTQ rights

Asti faced many challenges while being a transgender female. Throughout her whole life, she actively supported individuals who faced similar problems due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Asti started to take even more significant action after her husband passed away. Social Security Administration (SSA) denied her survivor’s benefits since she legally was a man at that time. Luckily, Asti won the case against the SSA, which became an inspiration for new movements for LBGTQ rights.

Asti established a non-profit wish-granting program for the LGBTQ community named Cloud Dancers. Now, Robina is raising $1 million in donations for transgender seniors to help fight against similar discrimination actions.

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