Barbara Harmer was born in 1954 in Bognor Regis, a seaside resort town and civil parish in the Arun District of West Sussex, England. Barbara left school aged 15 to pursue a career in hairdressing. Her first experience in the aviation industry was six years later when she left hairdressing to become an air traffic controller at London Gatwick Airport. When she took on the job of air traffic controller Barbara decided to study for A Levels, which she had missed out on due the fact that she had left school at such a young age. Barbara obtained A levels in Geography, English Law, Constitutional Law and Politics. She then proceeded to invest thousands of pounds of her own money on flying lessons. Once she had gained her Private Pilot License (PPL) and then her Commercial Pilot License (CPL) she became a flying instructor and pilot with a small commuter airline.
In 1984 Barbara joined British Caledonian and flew small BAC1-11s for three years. She then started flying long haul McDonnell Douglas DC-10. British Airways bought British Caledonian in 1988, four years after Barbara had joined. BA employs over 300 pilots, but only sixty of them are women, and on top of that, when Barbara joined, no woman had ever piloted Concorde. It was at this time that Barbara realised that her ultimate ambition was to fly Concorde. Only a handful of pilots are hand picked by British Airways to undergo the rigorous 6 months of training, which they insist all pilots selected to fly Concorde must undergo. Barbara was finally chosen to undergo this intensive and expensive training in 1992.
On March 25, 1993 Barbara became the first qualified female Concorde pilot, and later that year she made her first Concorde flight as Captain to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
One of Barbara's most famous moments during her career of piloting Concorde was that in 1999 she piloted a Concorde that flew Manchester United from London to Barcelona. It was here that the team won the European Cup for the second time in the clubs history.