Society

Two African-American Delta Pilots Take Historic Flight (Photos)

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Two female Delta pilots made history for being the first African-American women to fly a mainline Delta plane together.

When Atlanta-based First Officer Dawn Cook found out Detroit-based Captain Stephanie Johnson would be flying out of Detroit on Feb. 26, Cook contacted her to make the historic flight come to fruition, according to Delta.

Cook memorialized the event by taking photos of herself and Johnson in the cockpit together.

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And before take off, they fist pumped.

The flight occurred at the end of "Delta's Very Own Heroes," a month-long series in February spotlighting African-American pioneers. Johnson, Delta's first African-American female captain, was one of its featured employees.

"There were no pilots in my life growing up, and I think I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college," Johnson told Delta. "But for as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with airplanes and would think, 'What a great thing it would be to know how to fly.'"

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Johnson, who has been a commercial airline pilot for 20 years, learned to fly in college at Kent State University, and was a flight instructor before she had ever taken a commercial flight.

"After building flight time as an instructor, I was hired by a commuter carrier, where I was able to earn enough good flight experience to apply for a job at Northwest Airlines, and I was hired as their first African-American female pilot in 1997," she said.

At that time, there were 12 African-American women airline pilots in the country at major airlines. Johnson knew all of their names.

As a woman who has made history, Johnson feels "a great sense of responsibility to be a positive role model."

She added, "There are so few women in this profession and too many women who still don't think of it as a career option."

To Johnson, being a pilot is a rewarding career that's worth the hard work.

"One of the most rewarding parts of my career has been sharing my passion for aviation and exposing young people to the opportunities in the field," she said. "I’ve been a participant in the Detroit Aviation Career Education Academy for about 18 years, and last year, I was the director of the Cleveland ACE Academy. One moment was when one of our star students stood at the podium during graduation with an emotional and heartfelt thanks for showing him a world he didn’t know existed -- there could have been no greater reward for the volunteers who spent months planning the program."

Sources: Delta (2) / Photo credit: lkarasawa/FlickrDawn Cook/Facebook via Delta, Facebook via Daily Mail

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