Jessie Elliott

Airline: Delta Air Lines
Crew Position: First Officer
Aircraft: Airbus 330
Domicile: Seattle (KSEA) 


What is the year and location of the flight school you attended?

2005-2008: Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana 

What airplanes have you flown during your career?

I have flown the Cessna Citation II, Embraer Brasilia 120 (the OG EMB), CRJ 200/700/900, Airbus 319/320/321, Boeing 757/767, and most recently Airbus 330.

Have you had/have any mentors throughout the years?

Yes, I have had a few mentors throughout the years. The first person who actively mentored me is Bill Hegenbarth, a Southwest Airlines captain. He saw potential in me when I was in college and immediately took me under his wing. We have spent hours on the phone talking about the airline pilot career and what would be the best choices for me. I owe a great deal of my success to Bill. I’m forever grateful to him!

I also had mentorship once I started at Delta from many incredible people, Judson Crane, Eric Hall, and Doug Mattison, all of whom taught me how to navigate and engage our pilot union. All four of these men continue to give me advice along the way and I think my career would be completely different if I didn’t have these four to call at any hour.

How did you become interested in aviation?

I had always been interested in aviation since I was a little child. I cannot remember how old I was when my family took me on my first airline flight, but I was old enough to remember the feeling it gave me on takeoff. I remember thinking “wow this is such a rush! I wish I could do this every single day of my life.” At the time, I had no idea how to actually turn that dream into a reality. I grew up in a tiny, tiny town in Montana and there was little opportunity to explore the vastness of potential careers. It was truly a miracle and a lucky coincidence that in this tiny, tiny town, the neighbors that moved into the house next to ours owned a small Cessna. I remember the first time that I met Bob Sneberger and he found out that I had an interest in airplanes. He asked me if I had considered getting my pilot’s license. I told him that I didn’t know how to do this. He said, “all you have to do is do some practice flying in an airplane, take a written test, and then take a flight test with an examiner.” He answered all of my questions and explained everything in simple terms that I could understand. Literally from that day forward, I knew that all I wanted to do was become a pilot and that I could actually do it!

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Do you have any future aviation goals you hope to achieve?

In terms of my own personal goals, I would really like to learn how to fly a glider and I hope to do this in the next five years or so. In terms of my career, my main goal is to continue loving and enjoying this amazing job that we airline pilots have. I’m less interested in the title of Captain and in advancing into the larger airplane (A350) than I am interested in loving the trips that I take, the people I work with, and the amazing things that I can do with so much time off. Beyond this, my true aviation goals are more focused on expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the airline industry and helping minorities break into this career field and succeed. And I’m actively working on this goal by leading two separate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion groups at my company, and also volunteering for OBAP.

Beyond flying airplanes for work, how else do you spend your time?

When I am not flying airplanes for work, I still keep extremely busy with other volunteer activities. I am currently the Vice President of my company’s Business Resource Group for LGBTQ+ employees and allies, which is called EQUAL. In this role, I am able to help create greater community for LGBTQ+ employees at Delta and represent their voices to the company leaders on issues and matters that affect LGBTQ+ employees, customers, and communities. I am also able to specifically focus on pilot-specific diversity, equity, and inclusion matters as the Chairperson of Delta’s Flight Operations DEI Task Force. On this team, I am working with other Delta pilots to create initiatives that will help our pilot culture adapt into a more welcoming and inclusive culture for all pilots. I proudly volunteer with the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) as a Scholarship Reviewer. I also volunteer as a District Advocate for my union the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and their Government Affairs Committee. Through this role, I am able to speak to US Congressional members about issues that affect aviation safety, security, and labor. This role has been one that a mentor guided me into after he learned about my volunteerism with a non-profit advocacy group called United to Beat Malaria, where I learned to lobby US Congressional Members about maintaining consistent leadership and funding in global health initiatives like the Global Fund and President’s Malaria Initiative. All these roles have been extremely fulfilling and have allowed me to try to give back to others where I am able.

I rarely have extra time these days, but when I do have spare time, you can find me either out bicycling around the PNW or flying my seaplane in Seattle.

What have been some recent challenges you have faced?

The global pandemic was a massive challenge for anyone and everyone in the airline industry, including me. I am incredibly grateful for the amazing work of my union’s Government Affairs committee which successfully lobbied for the Payroll Support Program and other legislation which absolutely saved my job during the pandemic. Outside of the pandemic, I have found great challenge in connecting pilots through diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Many pilots feel that DEI work is unnecessary and is even exclusionary. My challenge is to help pilots learn how workplace changes for DEI reasons positively affects all pilots and actually benefits us all as well. We all value from the greater creativity and scope that comes with hearing diverse ideas and perspectives. We all gain value from workplace changes that make work more flexible and inclusive to different lifestyles and people. And we all perform better and are much happier when we feel welcomed into a group or space. 

What would you say to girls looking to become an airline pilot?

Being an airline pilot is absolutely, hands down, one of the coolest jobs in the world! I promise you it will be worth all of the effort and hard work that you put into it. What I would really like to say to girls is to try to expand their vision beyond their own path and their own success. The airline pilot career was not designed with many different people in mind and while the career has been incredibly challenging for me, there are people out there who experience even more challenges and have fewer opportunities than I had. As you climb your pilot career ladder, try to include other people in your journey. It will take the work of many people to help this career become more welcoming and achievable for all.

Also, I’d like to remind girls to have fun while advancing throughout their careers. So often we get focused on the end goal, and we lose sight of the incredible accomplishments and experiences along the way. We all need joy to help sustain us through the challenges and it is important to make deposits in your joy bank along the way!

What do you feel is a benefit to being an ISA+21 member?

Community and camaraderie. In a career where there are few people who are like you, it is incredibly powerful to connect together and talk to each other about our daily experiences.