Leyla Mammadbayova, first female pilot in the East

Baku, March 16, AZERTAC

Leyla Mammadbayova (1909-1989) became famous as the first female flyer, not only in Azerbaijani history, but also that of the Caucasus, Southern Europe and the Middle East. She became a courageous military pilot proceeding a life as a housewife and a mother of two small children, but always dreaming of the skies.

She was a living legend. In the mid-1930s the Moscow magazine Ogonyok put her picture on the cover and wrote: “Azerbaijani woman is the East’s first woman pilot”. Soon her fame spread across the Soviet Union. A woman who, only a few years before, had been an ordinary housewife, no different from any other, had stamped an indelible mark in Azerbaijan history with her courage.

In 1941 she attained the rank of squadron leader. Later, she continued with a career as a teacher for the Baku flying club.

Leyla Mammadbayova’s life traced an interesting route. This heroic woman devoted all her life to Azerbaijani aviation. Her full life’s journey wrote pages of glory into contemporary Azerbaijani history.

Her daughter Elmira’s memories of her mother recalled that Leyla’s first flight as a student of the Baku Aviation School took place in 1931. Later she made many more such free flights. She went to Moscow and trained in Tushino to further her progress. Mammadbayova was dispatched to advanced training courses at the Central Flight School of the OSOAVIAKhiM (Union of Societies of Assistance to Defence and Aviation-Chemical Construction in the USSR). Her intensive application to training and her successful execution of training flights set the course for her future career. She studied the properties, mechanics and flying methods of the multifunctional U-2 biplane at the school and mixed with other famous pilots and the well-known aviation constructor A.Yakovlev. Mammadbayova parachuted from a U-4 plane at Tushino aerodrome in Moscow on 17 March 1934, to become the Soviet Union’s second female parachute jumper after Nina Kameneva.

Mammadbayova ended her flying career with her last flight in 1949. She retired with an honorary pension in 1961.

The name Leyla Mammadbayova is recorded in Azerbaijani aviation history as an excellent teacher. Over the years she worked as an instructor for the Baku aviation club she put a huge amount of work into the training of thousands of skilful flyers.

Leyla’s career was also the subject of attention from cinema directors. Documentaries such as Ismat (Honour), produced by the Azerbaijan State Film Industry and directed by Mikayil Mikayilov in 1934 and The Skies are an endless sea: Leyla. I Film, shot by Nazim Rza Israfiloglu in 1955 (Azerbaijan Television Film) were devoted to Leyla Mammadbayova, the East’s first female flyer.


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