A Mother Breaks the Glass Ceiling and Inspires Her Son’s Aviation Career

Captain Julie Clark at the Atlas booth during a Women in Aviation event.

Atlas Air 747 Captain Larry Littlepage is the son of one of the first female airline pilots, retired Northwest Captain Julie Clark. In celebration of Mother’s Day, Larry shared with us in his own words a little bit about his mother’s aviation career.

“My mother was one of the first female airline pilots and she has inspired so many women during her career. I was aware of a lot of the challenges she faced while breaking into a career that was dominated by males. When she got into aviation in the 1970s there were no locker rooms or restrooms for women in the crew room at the airport. There was a general sense that women didn’t belong in aviation. It was tough to break into the industry at this time.

Larry and his mother during Larry’s early aviation days.

My mom refused to give up, and once she got her foot in the door, she knew she was not going to leave the world of aviation. My mom’s perseverance to achieve her dream of becoming a pilot is what inspired me to follow in her footsteps and become a pilot myself.

My mom was a founding member of ISA+21 [International Society of Airline Pilots], a group of the first 21 female airline pilots. She is most notable to the general public as an airshow performer in her T-34 (which she did for 40 years!), but she is also known to most female airline pilots as one of the women who “broke the glass ceiling” allowing others to pass.

The front cover of Captain Julie’s book.

My mom authored the book “Nothing Stood in her Way“ which shares the story of her career in aviation as a pilot and air show performer. She is a regular guest speaker at the Women in Aviation conferences, which she still does today. Recently, she stopped by the Atlas Air booth at a conference and talked to many members of the Atlas team.

I have so many memories of being with my mother at air shows and seeing the impact that she has had on other women. Whenever she is walking through a crowd, either at a conference or an air show, she makes time to speak with everyone and shake their hands. I have heard from so many women during the years, including some at Atlas, about the positive influence my mom has been in their careers.

Julie with Larry when she was inducted into Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.

In 2020, my mom started Clark’s Canine Care, which helps transport and relocate animals displaced either by natural disasters or overcrowded shelters. At almost 75 years old, she is still active in aviation and is a true free spirit. She has always been my greatest inspiration as well as my biggest fan.”