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September 20, 2019

First Hispanic female Air Force pilot to discuss trailblazing career at SVSU talk

Custodio, OlgaA Latina aviator whose career broke sound and gender barriers will visit Saginaw Valley State University next month.

As part of the university's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Lt. Col. Olga Custodio will discuss her journey as the first female Hispanic United States Air Force pilot during a public presentation Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m., in SVSU's Founders Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

Her talk, “A Night with Olga Custodio,” also will detail her experience as the first Hispanic female commercial airline captain and examine the challenges she faced rising in ranks of a male-dominated profession.

Custodio‘s father served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Custodio's family traveled with him to different military camps around the world including Taiwan, Iran, Paraguay, and the U.S. They settled in Puerto Rico when Custodio was 15 years old. After graduating high school, she applied to the University of Puerto Rico's ROTC program but was denied because only men were admitted to the program.

In 1980, Custodio entered the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training School and went on to graduate from the Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. She was the first Hispanic female to complete Air Force military pilot training in the U.S.

In 1988, American Airlines hired her as a commercial pilot, making her the first Latina to become a captain.

Custodio retired in 2003 to San Antonio. She now is an active charter member of the Women Military Aviators Association, the Women in Aviation International, as well as The Order of Daedalians. These organizations encourage youth from the San Antonio area to seek civilian and military aviation careers.

Her appearance at SVSU is sponsored by the university's Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Military Student Affairs, as well as the student organizations, Latino Awareness Association, and Female Empowerment and Multicultural Education.

Custodio's appearance is part of SVSU's annual Visiting Scholars and Artists speaker series. She will serve as a Dow Visiting Scholar during her visit.


For more information about the Visiting Scholars and Artists program, visit