I was watching Family Feud a few years ago when they asked something like “What’s one thing you want your pilot to be?” And one of the answers was “A man.” Yes, I was offended, but that just motivated me more. It’s rare enough to see women pilots—for the first two years of my flight training classes, I was the only female student—and even more unusual to see a pilot who’s a woman of color. Black women make up about 7 percent of the U.S. population, but less than 1 percent of pilots. And of course, most of them are a bit older than I am. I just graduated from high school in May.

My mom is a crazy aviation buff, so she always took me to air shows when I was younger. We’d watch the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels, and I’d get the pilots’ autographs. With her encouragement, I started taking lessons after I turned 12. Friends would ask me to hang out, and I’d say, “Sorry, I have a flight”—they’d look at me as if I had four heads. But the air felt like where I was supposed to be.

Flying is amazing for many reasons: the beauty you can see only from above, visiting incredible places. But to me, one of the coolest things is being in charge of the plane—the liberation of holding the controls. I plan to fly the big jets as an airline transport pilot, which means doing lots of ground training, banking 1,500 hours of flight time, and earning a bunch of certificates and ratings.

On my first plane ride, when I was 4, the flight attendants gave me a little pin with wings. We took a picture of me in the cockpit next to the captain. Who would’ve guessed that someday I’d be sitting in his seat?


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