Historians cannot give a clear answer as to who the world’s first black fighter pilot was, and they put forward two names: Ottoman officer Ahmet Ali Celikten and American Eugene Jacques Bullard. It is claimed that both Bullard and Çelikten graduated from the Bristol Flight School in England.
While Ahmet Ali Celikten graduated from Bristol Flight School in 1915, Bullard’s year of graduation is unknown. However, many Turkish historians argue that both pilot candidates graduated at the same time. However, Bullard was unable to fulfill his desire to join the First World War as a fighter pilot due to the discriminatory laws against people of color in America and could not fly for at least two years in the process.
Unlike Bullard, Ahmet Ali Celikten made a smooth start and received the flight certificate in 1915. One year later, he passed the first flight test and joined the Ottoman Air Force. Thus, Celikten’s pilot adventure officially started. Celikten lost his brother Ali Efendi, who served as a soldier in the Ottoman army during the World War I and fought with allied forces in Gallipoli.
Born in Aydın/Turkey in 1883, Celikten was the grandson of a woman brought from the Borno Emirate (Nigeria) by slave traders. Historians consider this woman to be one of the last victims of the slave trade, which was officially banned by Sultan Abdülmecit in 1847.
Celikten’s mother, Emine Hanım, was born as a free woman in Istanbul in the 1860s. Emine Hanım, who married Ali Efendi of African origin, who was thought to be a postal clerk in Istanbul, settled in Izmir.
Aviation has become Ahmet Ali’s curiosity
At a time when many countries started to invest in aviation, Ahmet Ali Celikten also started to become interested in the sky. Thanks to the initiatives of Mahmut Şevket Pasha, one of the generals of the Ottoman Empire, many people started to study aviation abroad. Those who completed their education were recruited by the state, and Ahmet Ali Celikten was one of them.
In 1912, a flight area, 2 hangars and an airplane school were opened near Yeşilköy. Two years later, the Naval Airplane School was founded next to this school and Ahmet Ali became one of the first naval officers appointed here.
Ahmet Ali, who received the flight certificate as of 1915, successfully completed the flight exams a year later and joined the Ottoman Air Force. Ahmet Ali also lost his brother Ali Efendi, who served as an infantryman in the Ottoman army during the First World War, in the Battle of Gallipoli.
When the Allied Forces seized the Ottoman planes
After losing his brother in the Canakkale front, Ahmet Ali went to Berlin and studied naval aviation for a short time. Then he returned to Turkey in 1918. In the same period, the planes of the Ottoman Empire, which were pulled from the First World War, were seized by the Entente States.
Ahmet Ali was quick to join the War of Independence, which was launched upon these developments, and joined the nationalist movement. He helped to smuggle the planes on the Golden Horn, left over from World War I, to Anatolia. Apart from that, he followed the enemy ships in the Western Black Sea from the exit of the Bosphorus, prepared reports on them and took the task of protecting the naval operation.
After a short while, Ahmet Ali was appointed as the commander of the air troops first in Eskişehir and then in Polatlı. Ahmet Ali and his friends, who smuggled three aircraft from Istanbul to Amasra, carried out air defense and naval protection operations against the enemy forces crossing the Bosphorus to the Western Black Sea.
12 years of the Ottoman Empire, has served 29 years in the Republic of Turkey
Ahmet Ali Celikten, starting on the road to the success of the national struggle of modern Turkey and the occupants of the property returned after the cleaning of the city of Izmir.
Ahmet Ali, who shot down a Greek plane that occupied Turkish airspace during his time in Izmir, was awarded with the prestigious “Bahri Tayyare” Medal and was appointed to the Air Undersecretariat in 1928.
The Ottoman Empire for 12 years, retired in 1949 as the Republic of Turkey Ahmet Ali Celikten who served for 29 years. Ahmet ali Celikten passed away in 1969. Celikten’s children continued to live in Izmir
Arab Ahmet, who was awarded the title of “pilot” in 1916, was not aware that he would have a special place in the history of world aviation in those days. Since steel was banned from flying in his country due to racism, he opened his wings to Anatolian skies a year before Eugene Bullard, an American black pilot flying in the French fleet of La Fayette in 1917, and black pilots from Martinique who were serving in the French army in 1917.
For more articles click.