Honoring Black History Month at the Air Zoo - Ida Van Smith

Ida Van Smith (1917-2003) 

Born in Lumberton, North Carolina, Ida Van Smith taught history and special education in New York City Public Schools after pursuing her undergraduate degree from Shaw University and her master’s degree from Queens College.  

In 1967, Ida made a dream come true at age 50 when she learned to fly! She applied her gift of teaching skills to aviation when she earned both her private pilot’s license and instructor rating. Gifted with an aircraft simulator from the FAA and using an operational Cessna 172, Ida established Long Island, New York’s Ida Van Smith Flight Club. In no time, over 20 of Ida’s clubs emerged across the country. Through her vision, Ida’s clubs introduced aviation and aerospace to thousands of young people ages 13-19. Some went on to pursue related careers.  

Ida retired from teaching in 1977 but remained active with her own local TV show and involvement in associations including the Ninety-Nines (Amelia Earhart and the Air Zoo’s co-founder, Sue Parish, were also members!). In 1984, Ida made history as the first black woman inducted into the International Forest of Friendship. She later sponsored Bessie Coleman and Janet Harmon Bragg’s inductions.  

Image from National Museum of Air and Space, Smithsonian Institution. 

Posted by Nikki Statler at 7:00 AM
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