In 2002, Tahirah Lamont Brown made history as the first African American woman pilot for FedEx.
On FedEx’s blog, Brown talked about her desire to be a pilot ever since she was in high school and explained some of the barriers she faced while trying to reach this goal in a male-dominated industry.
“I didn’t know any pilots and didn’t know how to pay for flight school,” she explained. “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.”
While at Operation Skyhook in Tuskegee, Alabama, Brown met Bill Norwood, who was the first Black pilot at United Airlines. Norwood took Brown under his wing and introduced her to the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) where she received a lot of career guidance and scholarship support for flight training.
While Brown, who first entered a cockpit in 1992, has worked her way up the ranks and accomplished a lot in her career, she says she won’t feel like she’s actually made it until she sees more pilots who look like her in her industry.
When she speaks to young people who are interested in aviation, she says the biggest advice she tells them is to believe that they can actually reach their goals.
“I also tell young people to not allow negative attitudes to affect you,” she says. “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.”