Ahmet Ali Çelikten
Ahmet Ali (Çelikten) with flight cap
|Birth name||?zmirli Alio?lu Ahmed|
|Nickname(s)||Arap Ahmet Ali|
?zmirli Ahmet Ali
?zmir, Aidin Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
|Died||1969 (aged 85–86)|
|Allegiance|| Ottoman Empire|
|Service/|| Ottoman Navy|
Ottoman Air Force
Turkish Naval Forces
Turkish Air Force
|Years of service||Ottoman Empire: 1908-1920|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Turkish War of Independence
Ahmet Ali Çelikten (born ?zmirli Alio?lu Ahmed; 1883 - 1969), also known as Arap Ahmet Ali (English: Ahmet Ali the Arab) or ?zmirli Ahmet Ali (English: Ahmet Ali from ?zmir), was an Ottoman-born Afro-Turkish aviator who was one of the first black pilots in aviation history. He was one of the few black pilots in World War I, like African American Eugene Jacques Bullard (flying for France), William Robinson Clarke from Jamaica (flying for Britain),Pierre Réjon from Martinique (flying for France) and Domenico Mondelli from Somalia (flying for Italy). Ahmet's maternal grandmother was born in Bornu (now in Nigeria) and was later brought to the Ottoman Empire.
Ahmet was born in 1883 in ?zmir, in the Aidin Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. His mother, Zenciye Emine Han?m, was of Nigerian descent; his father, Ali Bey, was 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 (Mülâz?m-? evvel). And then he went to aviation courses in the Naval Flight School (Deniz Tayyare Mektebi) that was formed on 25 June 1914 at Ye?ilköy. He was then a member of the Ottoman Air Force.
During World War I, he married Hatice Han?m (1897-1991) who was an immigrant from Preveza. He became one of the first black military pilots in aviation history when he started serving in November 1916. On 18 December 1917, Captain (Yüzba) 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 a mix of Arab-African and Turkish 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 Ye?ilköy 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 military aviator.