“The first Catalan aviator”

“She wanted to be a pilot. It was 1930 and SHE was 17 years old“ “SHE TRAINED 70 PILOTS WHO FOUGHT AGAINST FRANCO’S PLANES”

The obstinacy to fly of María Pepa Colomer, the first flight instructor in Spain and the pioneer of aviation in Catalonia, could have ended tragically very early in her life. Pepa was only eight years old, in 1921, when, holding onto an umbrella, she jumped from a second-story balcony in the Gràcia neighbourhood of Barcelona, trusting that she would be able to take flight. Her prank left her with two broken legs that confined her to a wheelchair for a long time.

It is not surprising that when years later she asked her father, a rich Catalan textile industrialist, to pay for the cost of flying lessons and enough flying hours to obtain a pilot’s licence, he tried to dissuade her using all his authority and power of persuasion. But it was in vain. The young woman’s tenacity would make her overcome all obstacles.

In fact, before that, María Pepa had already drunk from the chalice of temptation. One day, at the airfield that would later become the El Prat airport, on the outskirts of Barcelona, the intrepid young woman paid five pesetas for someone to take her for a short plane ride. When she finished the flight, she had already decided what direction she wanted to take in her life. She wanted to be a pilot. It was 1930 and María Pepa was 17 years old.

She took the lessons almost in secret and hidden from her mother who only knew about her daughter’s accomplishment when, one day, she saw this very front page. She was dismayed. It took a few days before dismay and anger turned into pride. After all, it was already too late to stop her adventurous daughter.

A few years later, during Franco’s military uprising against the Republic, María Pepa had the opportunity to become an important asset in the anti-fascist fight. Although she never participated in air combat, she trained up to 70 pilots who did go to fight against Franco’s planes.

María Pepa also dropped propaganda leaflets from the air, went to the Aragon front to pick up the wounded and transfer them to hospitals, carried out hundreds of reconnaissance flights on the coast trying to spot enemy ships, planes or troop movements, and in the last days of the war, before the fall of Barcelona, she transported important political figures to France to save them from the reprisals of the victors.

Marí Pepa herself went into exile in the south of England, where she died in 2004 at the venerable age of 91, and without her ever having lost her unusual vitality and her easy-going and confident smile.

BREAKING NEWS Front pages through history

La Vanguardia, barcelona

Thursday 22 January 1931
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