Airline: Delta Air Lines
Crew Position: First Officer
Aircraft: Airbus A320 Fleet
Tenure: 15 years
What is the year and location of the flight school you attended?
I attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the Daytona Beach campus and graduated in 2002.
What airplanes have you flown during your career?
My career has been wonderful…as for the airlines, I have flown the CRJ 200 & 700 model, the MD-88, the Boeing 737-700/800/900 and the Airbus 319/320/321
Have you had/have any mentors throughout the years?
Yes, I believe mentors are imperative to the growth and success of any driven person. They provide not only guidance, but also a perspective that you are not always able to comprehend with your level of experience compared to theirs. One of my greatest mentors is a retired Eastern Pilot that paved the way for African American pilots in the aviation industry. He helped me with various career moves and encouraged me to keep going and stay focused when the airlines were at their low point. Another great mentor has been my husband, who is also a pilot. He has a skill for communicating very effectively and has taught me a great deal over the years.
My interest in aviation came at a young age, because my mother was a flight attendant for USAir. She was home all the time, traveled all over the world and had such confidence when it came to doing new things. In the summers, I would wake up early in the morning and go to work with her. She flew the USAir Shuttle out of DCA in the summers. So, I would have breakfast in New York, fly back to DCA then go and have lunch in Boston and back to DCA at the end of the day. I loved it! Initially, I wanted to be a flight attendant, but she said, “No, you need to be the pilot!”. So, I figured if she thought it was possible, then that’s what I would do.
Do you have any future aviation goals you hope to achieve?
Oh yes! Many, many goals! I plan to change aircraft and do some international flying, from there I plan to upgrade to Captain once my seniority is where I would like it…from there, I plan to continue my work with the non-profit FAST (Female Aviators Sticking Together) to support female pilots around the world and increase the number of females in the industry. I plan to share and connect with young girls and shed light on what a great career this is, being an airline pilot and plant the seed of possibility! Finally, one of my major goals is to spread the word on what it takes to be a success in this industry and it all starts with your mindset. Meaning, ignore the negativity, believing in yourself and having confidence to shut down the ‘imposter syndrome’ that creeps in.
Do you live in base or commute?
I currently live in base, but commuted to New York for years.
What have been some recent challenges you have faced?
A recent challenge has been the decision to upgrade or not. It may sound crazy, why would someone not just upgrade when they can? But, for me, my family is my priority. As a senior First Officer, I have the ability to have a very flexible schedule, I am able to attend all my daughter’s events/games/practices, I am able to be home often for bedtimes, dinner and more! That’s important to me. But, there is a strong desire to upgrade to Captain. I know I am a good leader and would be a great Captain; however, I would lose a lot of seniority, my life balance would be off keel and my family would suffer. It looks really good and my ego would love the fourth stripe, but right now it’s not worth sacrificing the happiness of my family. So, with every bid, the idea pops in my mind…but, ultimately, it’s not worth it at this time.
What would you say to girls looking to become an airline pilot?
I would say, ‘go for it’! It’s a great career…You are able to not only see the world, but more so, you will learn a unique skill set that not everyone can achieve. You do so much with this career…besides defying gravity on a daily basis, you are constantly connecting people to their loved ones, dream vacations, opportunities of a lifetime and more. You are the bridge between the hopes and new adventures for the hundreds of passengers you will carry every single day! And you do it all while having the best time and enjoying the best view at 40,000ft! (Well, 39,000 if you’re in the Airbus).
What do you feel is a benefit to being an ISA+21 member?
The benefit of being an ISA+21 Member is the amazing connection with like-minded driven women! Being an airline pilot is not only a unique career, but it takes a great deal of courage and determination to delve into a male dominated industry. This wonderful organization realizes that and provides us with the opportunity to share and support each other along this journey. Thank you!
Dawn is one of the founders of a FAST [Female Aviators Sticking Together], a sister organization to ISA+21. FAST is an all-female non-profit network exclusively for female pilots. FAST has over 11,700 members from around the world, hosts annual networking Summits, and has proudly awarded over $145,000 in scholarships to deserving women in flight training. If you are a female pilot with at least your private pilot certificate, join the FAST Facebook Group today!