2009: The First Black Female Flight Crew

CLT 1-31-09 N185UW
On Thursday, February 12, 2009 history was made when an all African American flight (ASA) crew departed Atlanta. Get this, all of the crew, from the pilot and first officer to the two flight attendants serving in the cabin all were African American and all were female! It only took a century of flying in this country (Creative Commons License photo credit: James Willamor).

During my years working as a flight attendant, this never happened at my airline. As a matter of fact, I can recall easily the number of African American flight crew that I flew with over a five year period. The pilots of color were usually minimal and on the occasion that they would board the aircraft they were usually males. What is interesting here is that as I would stand along with the pilots at the front of the aircraft, it would never fail that several passengers would question how long they’d been flying and would amazingly ask if they were truly qualified to fly the aircraft.

Aviation has historically been a field dominated by whites, specifically white males. The exclusion often faced by people of color is continually evident in the airline industry. The fact that it is 2009 is suggestive of how systemic both sexism and racism is in this and many other industries. Seeing these African American women take flight is indeed long overdue. Let us now hope that a barrier is being broken and a path is being carved for others wishing to break into the airline industry. Please join me in looking forward to seeing many others when we board our next flight.