Ahmet Ali Çelikten
Ahmet Ali Celikten in flight suit.jpg
Birth name İzmirli Alioğlu Ahmed
Nickname(s) Arap Ahmet Ali
İzmirli Ahmet Ali
İzmir, Aidin Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died 1969 (aged 85–86)
Allegiance Ottoman Empire
Service/branch Ottoman Navy
Ottoman Air Force
Turkish Air Force
Years of service Ottoman Empire: 1908–1920
Battles/wars World War I
Turkish War of Independence
Ahmet Ali Çelikten (born İzmirli Alioğlu Ahmed; 1883–1969), also known as Arap Ahmet Ali or İzmirli Ahmet Ali, was an Ottoman aviator who may have been the first Black pilot in aviation history and was one of the few Black pilots in World War I, like Eugene Jacques Bullard. His grandmother came from Bornu (now in Nigeria) to the Ottoman Empire as a slave.
Ahmet was born in 1883 in İzmir, in the Aidin Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire to his mother Zenciye Emine Hanım and father Ali Bey, of African Turkish descent. He aimed to become a sailor and entered the Naval Technical School named Haddehâne Mektebi (literally "School of the Blooming Mill") in 1904. In 1908, he graduated from this school as a First Lieutenant (Mülâzım-ı evvel). And then he went to aviation courses in the Naval Flight School (Deniz Tayyare Mektebi) that was formed on 25 June 1914 at Yeşilköy. He was then a member of the Ottoman Air Force.
During World War I, he married Hatice Hanım (1897–1991) who was an immigrant from Preveza. He became the first Black military pilot in aviation history when he started serving in November 1916. On 18 December 1917, Captain (Yüzbaşı) Ahmed Ali was sent to Berlin to complete aviation courses.
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 Yeşilköy flying school. The same photo is featured 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.