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Trans at NPGA

The NGPA is committed to advocacy, which includes providing a venue to our transgender members for networking. We want to build this network as much as possible so that transgender people who are looking for resources in the aviation industry have a place to turn. 

The NGPA featured two of our own transgender members in the NGPA News in our Summer 2013 Edition. You can see the full issue here: NGPA News Summer 2013.
As an NGPA member, you'll have access to information about trans medical issues, resources, confidential counseling services, legal help, our exclusive NGPA Transgender People Forum, and Homophobia/Transphobia incident reporting resources.

Flying Trans: A Historical Perspective

On April 24, 1981, T. R Button, the Senior Vice President of Flight Operations for Eastern Airlines, presented a letter of termination to Karen Ulane, a pilot with an impeccable record. It read, “It is our belief that the controversial nature of the operation you have undergone will detract from and prevent any flight crew of which you are a part of from operating in the integrated, coordinated fashion that is necessary to attain the highest degree of safety.”

The letter would go on to say that other Eastern pilots would refuse to fly with her. Their reason for the refusal to fly and the termination letter? Karen was transgender. Never mind the fact that Karen served flying combat missions in Vietnam, or her 12 years of dedicated service to Eastern Airlines. That one simple act of living authentically cost Karen her job.

Since then, society has come a long way. Once we served our airlines living in the closet out of fear of termination or losing our medical; this is no longer the case. Today’s economy cannot afford to leave workers' talents and contributions off the table because of their sexual orientation and gender Identity. Where we were once shunned, we are now valued.

To attract qualified applicants, airlines are stepping up to the plate, offering medical coverage for gender congruent surgery. They recognize the medical necessity for us to be whole. It started with American and United taking the lead. Today, Alaska, JetBlue, and Southwest have joined ranks, with Delta soon to follow in 2017.

We have much to be thankful for, living in an age where our employers value us. People like Karen paved the way for many of us to do what we love. Their legacy left a footprint for us to follow.

Looking back, these achievements are monumental. Collectively, we are making a difference when we live our lives openly and authentically contributing to the success of the corporations we serve. The pendulum is swinging and we’re not stopping.

The bar has been set with our legacy carriers. Now, the focus turns towards our regional and cargo carriers. If they are to attract and retain qualified individuals to fill their seats, it is a matter of time before they too see the value of our skills, our gifts, and talents we bring to the table! How do we do that? By leaning in and being you! Collectively, our voices are being heard!

We can do this!


Erika DeLong — Transgender Advocacy Committee Chair (Minneapolis, MN)


Erika grew up in an aviation family.  She is a third generation pilot who at the age of five she wanted to be an airline pilot, and that she was different than others - she felt her gender identity did not match her physical body.  At the age of nineteen, with zero hours, Ericka purchased her first airplane - a 1966 Cessna 150 - and began taking lessons.

Working as a boat rigger to pay for flying, she worked through all her ratings including CFI, CFII, MEII, SES, and ATP by hopping around to different flight schools to complete her training for the cheapest price.

In 1989, Erika began flying the SAAB 340 at Mesaba Airlines.  Through a couple changes/mergers.  Erika has continued to fly for the same company and is currently a Captain on the CRJ-900 at Endeavor Airlines based out of MSP.  In 2014, at the age of 40, Erika worked with the Airline Pilot Association, her company, its parent company's legal team, and her chief pilot to achieve a smooth and successful male to female gender transition.

While Erika is not flying Part 121, she lives in suburb of Minneapolis/St Paul metro area with her wife of 13 years Paula, and their daughter, Piper.  Erika loves sharing the passion of flying with her family and has been working on developing the next generation of DeLong pilots.  With over 13,000 flight hours, Erika's favorite kind of flying is in her Aeronca Champ, especially on skis as she explores Minnesota's frozen lakes.

Erika joined the NGPA in 2016 with the goal of meeting other transgender pilots and being a mentor (along with her cis-wife) to other transgender couples and individuals.  With Erika's vast knowledge dealing with gender transition, she is here to serve the NGPA Transgender Advocacy committee as a co-chair.  Free free to contact her with any questions you may have and know that everything will be kept confidential with this private subject.

For transgender membership and family support email Erika directly,


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