“She’s an airline pilot clearing the runway for other girls to follow her footsteps,” a NBC television morning show anchor said of 41-year-old Jamaican-born Beth Powell, who currently flies with American Airlines.
Powell is being hailed as a role model for females, particularly those of color. Her drive to become a pilot started early.
“I remember going to high school and I loved everything to do with numbers and all subjects pertaining to math,” she told NBC.
Powell said a teacher, who also believed she could become a mechanic or an engineer as well, told her she could become a pilot. She was later inspired by Brenda Robinson, an African American female pilot who worked for American Airlines.
Powell credited the support of her parents as she pursued her dream. She attended flight school in Vero Beach, Florida, where she later worked as an instructor to earn enough flying miles to qualify her as a commercial pilot. She earned a commercial pilot’s license at age 18.
“I worked three jobs to finish paying for my flight instructor license,” Powell told NBC.
She started flying as a commercial pilot at age 21 with American Eagle. She became a first officer with the Boeing 737 for AA in 2014.
There isn’t a large cadre of female African American pilots. Only 4.4 percent of commercial airline pilots are women, even fewer of those are women of color.
She is hoping to improve those statistics. Powell is a member of “Sisters of the Skies”, which supports young females who dream of becoming pilots. She has also established a scholarship to encourage diversity among pilots.
It’s not just money Powell is offering, but mentorship. Her advice is simple.
“Dare to dream big and to dream loud,” Powell said.
The rewards, Powell said, are invaluable.
“I’m looking forward to seeing a more diverse community (among pilots),” Powell told NBC, “not just because of the color of our skin or because of our gender or our religion or sexual orientation, but for what that brings.
“That brings great thoughts. It brings great ideas that add to innovation that help to make us a better workforce and a better company.”