Iberia Names Airbus A320neo After First Female Spanish Pilot


As a part of its commitment to diversity and the promotion of women to all levels within the company, Iberia has named its newest A320neo after Spain’s first woman pilot. Currently, 85 women work as pilots for Iberia, representing six% of the cockpit staff. While this percentage may not sound like much, it is above average in the airline industry.

Iberia A320neo
Iberia is naming its A320neos after people and places in Spanish aviation history. Photo: Iberia

The Airbus A320neo is Iberia’s most technologically advanced, quiet, and efficient short- and medium-haul aircraft. Thanks to its Leap-1ª CFM engines, it is 50% quieter than older aircraft and emits 5,000 tonnes less CO2 per year, and 50% less NOx. Iberia’s Airbus A320neos can seat between 180 and 186 passengers in a two class 3+3 configuration. The A320neo has a range of 3,400 nautical miles (6,300 kilometers), making it an ideal choice for medium-haul routes. According to Planespotters.net, Iberia has eight Airbus A320neos.

María Bernaldo de Quirós

Born to aristocratic parents in Madrid on 26th of March 1898, María Bernaldo de Quirós dreamt of flying as a child and eventually received her pilot’s license in 1928. Having learned to fly in a de Havilland DH.60 Moth at the Getafe aerodrome south of Madrid, her superlative stunt flying skills earned her the nickname “Miss Golondrina” (swallow).

Iberia A320neo
The Patrulla Águila (Eagle Patrol) is named after the Spanish Air Forces aerobatic team. Photo: Olivier via Wikimedia

While performing at air shows throughout northern Spain, she once flew over the car of the Duke of Segovia, showering him with flower petals.

Maria broke barriers for women

During the roaring 1920s, aviation fever was at its height thanks to pilots like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. Yet women were expected to stay home, cook, clean, and look after the children. According to El Español, on one occasion, while being interviewed, Maria talked about how she had become a modern woman saying:

“As public opinion evolves, people will realize that women can do more than just embroider.”


Following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), María Bernaldo de Quirós retired from being a flying instructor in Asturias. Despite her short eight-year career, she had already broken barriers showing other women that they too could learn to fly. A bold and determined woman ahead of her time, Iberia’s tribute aims to highlight María Bernaldo de Quirósas as a model for young women considering a career in aviation.

Maria’s legacy lives on at Iberia

Now with her name inscribed on the fuselage of Iberia’s newest efficient short- and medium-haul aircraft, her legacy lives on. Iberia has decided to name its Airbus A320neos after people and places dear to Spain and Spanish aviation.

Sonia Abellán Montes
Sonia Abellán Montes – one of Iberia’s 85 female pilots. Photo: Iberia

Names include Amelia Earhart, the Spanish Air Forces aerobatic team, the Patrulla Águila (Eagle Patrol), and the Getafe Aerodrome, which is Spanish aviation’s birthplace.


What do you think about Iberia’s decision to name its A320neos after people and places connected to Spain’s Aviation history? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.