For the first time in FedEx history, a Black woman will take control of the cockpit. Airbus Captain and Line Check Airman Tahirah Lamont Brown have been promoted to pilot for the international shipping company. After making the decision in high school to become a pilot, Brown has never looked back. In an interview that ran on the FedEx blog, she recalls the barriers she had to overcome to succeed in this male-dominated industry.
“There were barriers, for sure. I didn’t know any pilots and didn’t know how to pay for flight school,” Brown shared in the FedEx interview. “I worked two jobs to pay for college and for flight training. I also wrote my family a letter asking them for support. I promised that if they would help me now, I would pay them back when I had the money, and they helped me.”
Brown revealed that Bill Norwood, who was the first Black pilot at United Airlines, mentored her through the process. He helped her find scholarships that helped pay for flight school and encouraged her to join the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. His help proved to invaluable along her journey.
The career path that Brown chose was no walk in the park. She had to work hard to prove herself capable and worthy of every opportunity. She offers advice to young girls who want to become pilots one day–they have to be willing to put in the work. But believing in themselves is probably the biggest challenge to overcome.
“I tell them my life story, and that the end result and sacrifices are going to be worth it. You have to make sacrifices, and the road is going to be hard,” Brown said. “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. I also tell young people to not allow negative attitudes to affect you. 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.”
Tahirah Brown, our first African American woman pilot, shares how hard work, creativity, determination, and mentors helped her build her “office in the sky.” Read more: https://t.co/q8RP6GG5Xj pic.twitter.com/wCQ90J2nn7
— FedEx (@FedEx) February 7, 2018
While the announcement of her promotion has been made during Black History Month–and Brown’s feat is undoubtedly history-making–she doesn’t feel like she has reached the pinnacle of success. There aren’t a lot of Black faces in the flight industry and Brown wants that reality to change.
“While I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, I will not feel like I’ve made it until I see more minorities in the industry,” Brown explained. “When I speak at conferences, I help provide information about FedEx and encourage minorities to apply. However, I have not seen a significant change.”