First U.S. Latina Military Pilot Olga E. Custodio to Receive Prestigious Award

Lead Photo: Credit: Liliana Mackenzie Portraits
Credit: Liliana Mackenzie Portraits
Read more

Olga E. Custodio, the first Latina military pilot in the U.S., was recently named as one of the Latine leaders who will receive the 2022 STEM Award (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Award during the 35th Annual Hispanic Heritage Award later this month.

“The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) is honored to recognize the trailblazing achievements of Olga Custodio and present what is possible to our youth especially to young Latinas,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, HHF president and CEO. “Her representation in the military and aviation is a powerful statement on the value the Latino community provides our country and beyond.  We are thrilled to tell her story through our partnership with PBS, sponsors and co-hosts and celebrate our community’s accomplishment, cultural pride, and great promise.”

The HHF was established by the White House in 1988 to commemorate the creation of Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. The organization’s award is considered one of the highest honors presented by our communities, to our communities.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Custodio was the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training program. She graduated in the top five percent of her class. Her first military assignment was at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, where she served as an instructor pilot. Later in her career, Custodio became the first Latina commercial pilot for American Airlines. She reached the rank of Captain during her 20-year career.

Today, Custodio is a STEM advocate who speaks on the importance of STEM education across the country. She serves on several nonprofit organization boards, including the Latino Pilots Association and Women in Aviation International – San Antonio Chapter.

Olga E. Custodio will be recognized alongside reggaeton pioneer Daddy Yankee, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Los Lobos, and Marvel Studios executive Victoria Alonso. The 35th Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards airs September 30, 2022, on PBS and streams on and the PBS Video app.