MIAMI – According to the non-profit organization Sisters of the Skies (SOS) less than 1% of US Pilots are black women. SOS has made it its mission to diversify flight decks in the US.
The organization was founded in 2015 by Lt. Christine Angel Hughes, who is currently a U.S. Coast Guard Pilot. SOS mentors girls who express an interest in aviation, pairing them up with black, female Pilots who have already earned their wings. Its objective is to inspire young girls of color to take an interest in aviation.
According to the organization, there are currently less than 150 professional Black women Pilots in the US who hold a Commercial or Military Pilots Licence or a Flight Instructor Certificate.
The organization states, “Our goal is to drastically improve these numbers through mentorship, professional development, STEM, and outreach and scholarships.” SOS has awarded several scholarships through its “Jet Fuel Fund” which helps to remove financial barriers for less advantaged students.
“The Sky is the Limit”
ABC News interviewed Monique Grayson, one of the Pilots involved in the organization. Grayson says she “knew she wanted to be a Pilot when she took her first commercial flight from Detroit to San Francisco at 11 years old.”
Grayson attended Western Michigan University and was the first in her family to go to college. She is now a first officer for Delta Air Lines, flying the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767. Grayson’s advice for younger girls is to not “let the limitations that either you put on yourself or society puts on you dictate what you’re supposed to do in life. The sky is the limit.”
“Girls Rock Wings”
Through outreach events, the group aims to demonstrate to young women of color that professional Pilot careers are attainable. At one event – Girls Rock Wings (GROW) – girls aged 10 -18 spend a full day with SOS experiencing life as a Professional Pilot.
American Airlines sponsored the event, which was held at the Lone Star Flight Museum. On the day girls toured the Air Traffic Control Tower, learned how to write their own flight plan and flew on airplanes piloted by SOS members.
Sisters of the Skies say representation is even more important now due to the pandemic. SOS knows of at least eight Black female Pilots face layoffs.
The organization is holding its next virtual outreach event on 17 October.
Featured image: Sisters of the Skies Facebook