Meet the Woman Soaring to Success in Aviation
Education and Careers The first African American woman pilot for FedEx charts her journey to new heights in a male-dominated industry.
Connecting people with goods, services, ideas and technologies creates opportunities that build jobs, generate prosperity and lift communities to higher standards of living. The transportation industry, and the virtual and physical infrastructure that powers it, fuels e-commerce, helps ensure that critical medical supplies safely reach their destination and provides access to global markets for businesses large and small.
Making her mark
Whether by ground or air, it takes an army of people to make it happen, including Tahirah Lamont Brown. Brown, a FedEx Airbus Captain and Line Check Airman, recalls her very first time in the cockpit in 1992, taking off out of Long Island, New York, and flying to Greenwich, Connecticut, with her dad in the back seat. She was on top the world — literally. The flight was a momentous occasion for any pilot, but especially for an African American woman entering an industry dominated by men.
Finding her calling
Brown decided in high school she wanted to be a pilot. “At that time I had only flown twice in my life, but the more I learned about aviation, the more fascinated I became. I enjoy traveling, meeting new people and learning about different cultures. Aviation matched my personality. It was an epiphany for me. I decided this is what I want to do, and God put people in my path along the way that helped me achieve my goal,” she says.
Seeking out support
Brown’s parents were uneasy about the decision, questioning whether she was serious. Then there was the money. Brown worked two jobs to pay for flight school and training, even helping to babysit an instructor’s son in exchange for flight training.
She was also a minority woman with few role models in the industry. That’s where the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) helped. Brown learned about the organization from the first African American pilot at United Airlines, and the introduction changed her life, offering not only mentorships, but also scholarships and access to flight programs.
Mentoring the next generation
Brown achieved her goals, working as a pilot and flight instructor with other airlines before joining FedEx in 2002 as the company’s first African American woman pilot. Still an OBAP supporter today, she offers advice to young people who want to follow a similar path.
“You have to make sacrifices, and the road is going to be hard. I let them know that I am here to support them, to give them advice and to listen to them, because that was important to me. But they will have to find it within themselves to know that it is achievable,” Brown says. “I also tell young people to not allow negative attitudes to affect them. This has been true for me. We can be our biggest barriers at times. We have to overcome our own personal barriers to achieve our goals.”