ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – From a young age, Eileen Collins had dreamt of going to a place only a few women had — space.
The Elmira native’s passion for aviation sparked as a teenager when she and her father would adventure to the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport and watch the aircrafts wiz by. Little did she know that, years later, she would become a trailblazer in aerodynamics, paving a path for and inspiring countless women along the way.
“I always wondered what it would be like to be on another planet or another solar system,” Collins told 18 News. “And when I first joined the Air Force, women were not allowed to fly combat aircraft.”
Collins tried to change that. She wrote countless letters demanding the law be reversed. That didn’t happen until years later.
But soon enough, Collins made history. In 1979 she made her way into the Air Force and became the first female flight instructor. In 1995, she was the first woman to pilot the United States Space Shuttle. Finally, in 1990 — once again going beyond the bounds of Earth — Collins became the first woman to command a shuttle mission.
“The important thing is you know you can do this,” Collins said. “You shouldn’t shy away from this because there’s more men.”
Collins echo’s that message today by reminding dreams everywhere that their gender doesn’t determine how far they can go.