Pioneer pilot talks about career, 9/11 during visit to CT

Connecticut

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH)– A group of young girls in Bridgeport captivated by an inspiring guest. Even though they are too young to fully grasp the story of the woman sitting in front of them. Her name is Beverley Bass.

“I always wanted to fly the biggest airplane.”

Her love for aviation as a child turned into a career as a pilot as an adult. However, nobody wanted to hire her at first because she was a woman.

“I got my first flying job, I flew bodies for a mortician. $5 an hour and that propelled me into other jobs,” Bass explained to News 8.

Bass would eventually land at one of the biggest names in the business — American Airlines.

Captain Bass when she began flying for American Airlines in the 1970’s

“I got hired by American as their third female pilot in 1976 and became the first captain for American in 1986.”

The first female captain in an industry dominated by men. When she started at American there were nearly 4,000 male pilots. She would then go on to fly one of the biggest passenger jets in the world — the Boeing 777. Then came Captain Bass’ most difficult flight yet.

Captain Bass was at the controls of a packed plane flying from Paris to Dallas. Over the mid-Atlantic she received horrible news.

“We learned that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center, never thinking it was an airliner.”

As the tragedy unfolded U.S. airspace was shut down. Dozens of international flight bound for the United States were diverted to Canada. Captain Bass had to then deliver the horrific news to her passengers.

“I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Bass. There’s been a crisis in the United States. All of the U.S. airspace is closed and we’ll be landing our airplane in Gander, Newfoundland’.”

Captain Bass’s plane was one of 38 jumbo jets to land in Gander that day.

“We landed in the tiny community of 9,400 people and we were nearly 7,000 passengers and crew and we stayed for five days,” says Bass.

The town sprang into action. Providing food, shelter, medicine and clothing for all the people who arrived at their doorstep. Serving as a bright light on the darkest of days. Captain Bass, along with her passengers and crew, would eventually continue on to Dallas.

Captain Bass, pictured with her fellow crew, right before she left Gander to continue on to Dallas after the September 11th attacks.

Captain Bass would continue flying for American in the wake of 9/11. But the affects of that day on the airline industry, especially American Airlines, forced her to retire early in 2008.

She flew her last flight from Frankfurt to Dallas. Her family was there for the ending of a remarkable career. But retirement, wouldn’t last long.

“Then when the show came about things got a lot more active.”

Yes, a show. A Broadway hit called “Come from Away,” which tells the story about Gander on 9/11. Captain Bass’ experience that day and her career are now a center piece in the musical. The show premiered in 2015 and there are currently five different casts who do performances in four countries worldwide.

“The first time I saw the play I had no idea what it was about or how prominent my character was portrayed,” said Bass. “Now my life has become an out-of-control whirlwind. But, it’s all very good stuff.”

Captain Bass at the premiere of Come from Away

Captain Bass now detailing her years of flight on the pages of a new children’s book called “Me and the Sky.” She stopped by the Achievement First Bridgeport Academy to read to the kids there and talk about her career.

“It’s so great for scholars to be able to see different professions and see what they can do, which is anything they want,” said Samantha Lucky, the school’s principal.

Bass, now retired, standing in front of the Boeing 777, which she flew for the last nine years of her career with American Airlines

Captain Bass leaving an impression on this next generation with her extraordinary life, that at times, has been faced with extraordinary circumstances.

“I thought if I could get the opportunity to influence one child to live the career I had for so many years, it would truly be a gift to me,” says Bass.  

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