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Ahmet Ali Çelikten
Ahmet Ali
Born 1883
Died 1969 (aged 85–86)
Place of birth Smyrna (İzmir)
Allegiance Ottoman Empire
Service/branch Ottoman Navy[1]
Turkish Navy
Years of service Ottoman: 1908 - 1920
Turkey:1920 - 1949
Battles/wars World War I
War of Independence

Ahmet Ali Çelikten[1][2][3] also known as Arap Ahmet Ali[2] or İzmirli Ahmet Ali[1] (born Izmirli Ali oghlu Ahmed, 1883 – 1969) may have been the first black military pilot in aviation history[4] and was one of only two black pilots in World War I (the other being Eugene Jacques Bullard). His grandmother came from Bornu (now in Nigeria) as a slave.[4][5]


Ahmet born in 1883 in Smyrna (present day İzmir)[6] his mother Zenciye Emine Hanım and to his father Ali Bey.[7] He aimed to become a naval sailor and entered the Naval Technical School named Haddehâne Mektebi (literally School of Blooming Mill) in 1904.[7] In 1908, he graduated from school as a First Lieutenant (Mülâzım-ı evvel).[7] And then he went to aviation courses in the Naval Flight School (Deniz Tayyare Mektebi) that was formed on June 25, 1914 at Yeşilköy.[1]

During World War I, he married Hatice Hanım (1897–1991) who was an immigrant from Preveza.[3] He became first black military pilot in aviation history when he started serving in November, 1916. On December 18, 1917, Captain (Yüzbaşı) Ahmed Ali was sent to Berlin to complete aviation courses.[5]

He died in 1969.


To quote David Nicolle's book, The Ottoman Army 1914-1918, "Most Ottoman aircrew were recruited from the Turkish heartland ... others came from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire as far south as Yemen, or even from neutral Iran. Captain Ahmet was of Arab-African origin and may have been the first 'black' Air Force pilot in aviation history, having received his 'wings' in 1914-15." The book features a photo of Ahmet in front of a Bleriot XI-2 trainer at the Yesilkoy flying school. We featured the same photo in "Over the Front", Volume 9, No. 3, Fall 1994. Ahmet's "wings" would seem to have been earned prior to Bullard's earning his brevet No. 6259 on 20 July 1917, though Bullard is often cited as history's first black aviator.[4]


Ottoman naval aviators of the Naval Flight School (Deniz Tayyare Mektebi) at Aya Stefanos; left to right: pilot Ahmet Ali (Çelikten), Sami (Uçan), İhsan and observer Hüseyin Kâmil (Görgün).

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Türk Deniz Havacılık Tarihi" in the official website of the Naval Air Base Command of the Turkish Naval Forces. (Turkish)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ajun Kurter, Türk Hava Kuvvetleri Tarihi, Cilt 5, Hava Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı, 2009, p. 299. (Turkish)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -4 "Pilotlarla Dolu Bir Aile", Posta, March 20, 2011. (Turkish)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 NTV History Magazine Issue:26, March 2011[page needed]
  5. 5.0 5.1 DÜNYANIN İLK SİYAH PİLOTU: ARAP AHMET, Havervitrin, March 8, 2011. (Turkish)
  6. Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -1, Posta, March 20, 2011. (Turkish)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Dünyanın ilk siyahi pilotu: ARAP AHMET -2, Posta, March 20, 2011. (Turkish)

Further reading[]

  • David Nicolle, The Ottoman Army 1914-1918, Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, 1994.

External links[]

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