Meet four African Americans who are making a difference in aviation
Just as they have since the beginning of aviation, African Americans continue to make a difference in the industry. Many inspire and become role models in influencing the future of the community we all love so much.
Vanessa Blacknall Jamison
Chair, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Advisory Council
One of the most powerful ways to make a difference in this world is to mentor someone.
“Anyone can benefit from mentoring. Giving of yourself, of your experience and genuinely caring about others is key to being a great mentor,” says Vanessa Blacknall-Jamison.
She has over four decades of aviation experience, 28 of which in a leadership role. These days, she is a Change Advisor and Leadership Coach (ACC) with the Federal Aviation Administration, Aviation Safety and Flight Standards Leadership Development Team Change Management Group.
His duties include change management consulting, guidance, training and support focused on the management of national project personnel.
She eloquently shares what she knows, starting with advice for the mentor and mentee.
For the mentor: “At the first meeting, set expectations by asking why you are interested in being a mentor? How do you think I can help you? Are you ready to get to work? What is the desired outcome of our mentoring relationship? »
Ideally, she says, the mentee should be prepared with lots of questions — it’s important to have the right match between mentee and mentor.
It is also important that mentors ensure that they are not over-committing and that they have the time and capacity for mentoring, otherwise they will disappoint themselves and the mentee.
“If you agree to be a mentor, make sure you are committed, reliable, [and] eliminate distractions when meeting with your mentee. Give them your full attention. Use your network to help your mentee succeed. Above all, believe that your mentee can accomplish anything. However, if you see that they are not engaged or struggling, be honest with them and tell them what you see.
One of the traits of successful individuals is the ability to take the initiative to seek out opportunities that allow them to expand and enhance their interests. Often that means finding a way to help others in aviation.
One person with these traits is Irene Geraldo, a flight instructor from Ghana, West Africa.
Geraldo will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, in March to attend the Women in Aviation International Conference, on an It’s About Time Fellowship awarded by the Abingdon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Abingdon Watch Co.
The foundation provides scholarships to individuals pursuing different industries in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with a focus on changing one life at a time by giving them a privileged access to an industry they are passionate about.
Geraldo has been passionate about aviation since childhood. She says her interest was piqued when she saw planes flying overhead. Her first thought was to become an airline pilot, but as she began taking flying lessons and meeting other pilots, her ideas about a career in aviation began to evolve.
“In the long term, I see myself setting up a full-fledged structure aimed at rallying and training young people interested in this field, while establishing a framework to provide good career guidance in aviation,” she says.
“I believe that attending this year’s convention will greatly help me to better understand the machinations of the industry; something I look forward to, to continue to carry out my mission to inspire and motivate the next generation of young Airmen back to Africa and more, especially in Ghana.
Geraldo looks forward to the conference as a way to take the first steps towards networking, as she knows that aviation is not just about applying information, but also about building relationships.
“I am thrilled to meet the experts and industry players I so admire, face to face, to learn under the tutelage of other great women in aviation who are making significant strides in the industry and pave the way for the younger generation like me and ultimately to network and develop new professional relationships,” she says.
Dr. Mae C. Jemison
Astronaut, educator, engineer
Dr. Mae Jemison has achieved many firsts in her career. She was the first African-American female astronaut and the first to travel to space.
Jemison holds a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University, as well as an MD from Cornell University.
She became a Peace Corps doctor for Sierra Leone and Liberia, where she served as an educator and conducted medical research.
In 1986, she was accepted into NASA’s astronaut training program. His first mission was aboard the space shuttle Effort in September 1992. She served as a science mission specialist, conducting various experiments on herself and the crew.
Shortly after returning to Earth, Jemison went to fictional space making an appearance as a transport operator on Star Trek, the next generation. Look for her in season 6 in the episode “Second Chances”.
After returning from space, she formed the Jemison Group to develop and market advanced technologies.
Director of the ACE National Academy, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals
Titus Sanders has been fascinated by aviation since childhood. As a child, he drew pictures of fighter jets landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier and often watched an emergency medical services helicopter come and go from a nearby hospital.
Today, he holds fixed wing and helicopter certificates and serves as Chief Warrant Officer 4 in the US Army. He began his professional aviation career as an Army pilot, flying rotary wing, and working in US Army intelligence.
“A few months after 9/11, I saw the film Black Hawk Down. I felt so inspired by the heroism of the Nightstalker pilots,” says Sanders. “The idea of becoming an Army pilot sounded so enticing and exciting. At that point, I realized I had to enlist to serve as a Black Hawk pilot.
Sanders joined the US Army in January 2003 as a paralegal specialist. He then attended Warrant Officer Candidate School and entered flight school in 2005.
“I served most of my career in Army Aviation as an Aviation Mission Survivability Officer, responsible for training techniques, tactics and procedures, the use IR and radar warning systems, personnel recovery and mission planning,” he said.
He fulfilled his dream of flying the Black Hawk along with several other aircraft. He currently flies the UC-35A, the military variant of the Cessna Citation V.
Sanders wanted to share his love of aviation with others. In 2012, another US Army pilot suggested he join the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), saying it would help him achieve his goal of growing and developing the next generation of pilots. African Americans.
“He said OBAP was the best organization to help achieve that goal,” Sanders says. He spent several years at OBAP, volunteering in the Aerospace Professional in Schools (APIS) program, which brings aerospace professionals into schools to introduce young people to the opportunities available in aerospace and aviation.
“Several times a year, I had the opportunity to speak to students about my experience as a US Army pilot and other aviation careers.” Sanders says, adding that as his experience in OBAP grew, so did his responsibilities.
“Over the past few years, I have held various leadership positions within the organization, including Regional Director of the Midwest, Co-Director and Co-Founder of the new OBAP program, Explore Aerospace, and Director of the National ACE Academy. “, did he declare. said.
Sanders says the best part of the job is hearing from students and their families about how OBAP and the programs have impacted their lives and helped them become aviation professionals.
“Our students progress by earning their pilot certificates, enrolling in undergraduate programs in aerospace engineering, and serving as co-pilots and captains on various airlines,” he says. “It makes me really proud to be part of an organization that literally changes people’s lives in this way.”
The biggest challenge of the job, Sanders says, is that although OBAP has “…dozens of extremely passionate and dedicated volunteers, we always need more.” He adds that it can sometimes be difficult to recruit volunteers to help run the programs.
“It is also sometimes difficult to establish links with various schools to connect with a wider audience of students. Our goal is to always achieve more, do more, give more – so if you’re reading this and feeling inspired, I invite you to join us and volunteer. I guarantee that the feeling you get when you see a student truly fall in love with aerospace is more than its own reward.