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Sisters of the Skies: Honoring Black women in aviation

Feb. 12, 2020
4 min read
Sisters of the Skies: Honoring Black women in aviation
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As an #avgeek, I'm always in awe of pilots.

I think about how they keep the skies safe and provide comfortable flying experiences for passengers every day, while dealing with delays, rude passengers and sometimes low pay. I think about their critical responsibilities as they hurtle passengers through the skies at hundreds of miles an hour.

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At an elementary school career workshop, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be an astronaut or a commercial pilot, though I heard a few times that women couldn't be pilots -- with the subtext that little black girls from a small Virginia city couldn't fly planes or into space.

I didn't reach that goal (though getting to travel for a living is close enough!), but I've been thinking about the ones who have.

As TPG celebrates Black History Month, we're honoring African-American changemakers in the travel and aviation industry. I think about the lack of pilots who look like me, and I'm surprised -- pleasantly -- when I'm in an airport and see one of the few African-American women pilots.

“We can start from my walks through the airport,” American Airlines pilot Beth Powell told Essence in 2019. “Passengers do a double-take when they see me. Even some gate agents sometimes confuse me for a flight attendant [while I’m standing there] in full pilot uniform.”

Related: These influencers are using social media to encourage people of color to travel

An organization founded by black women in aviation hopes to address these disparities. Sisters of The Skies, a nonprofit international aviation organization, works to provide minority women in the industry with scholarships, mentorship and emotional support as they navigate their careers.

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According to Sisters of the Skies, "Professional black women pilots represent less than one-half of 1% of the total professional pilot career field." Only 150 black women pilots in the U.S. hold airline transport pilot, commercial, military or certified flight Instructor licenses. The numbers aren't great for female pilots in general, either. According to Women In Aviation International, just over six percent of commercial pilots are women.

Related: Celebrating African-American aviation contributions - one Tweet at a time

Sisters of The Skies was founded by a Coast Guard pilot and several commercial pilots, but it's not just an organization for black women in the aviation industry. The organization also participates in outreach programs for students in elementary, middle and high schools interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. This outreach targets explicitly girls of color who otherwise wouldn't have access to mentoring from aviation professionals.

Capt. Angie Wilkerson-Hébert, a United Airlines pilot, told television station KTVU in Oakland, California, how important it is to give back. Wilkerson-Hébert is a history-maker herself -- she's the first black woman to fly the Boeing 777 in the U.S.

"When I was growing up," Wilkerson-Hébert said, "there was no one for us to follow. No one of color, no females, and I was fourth African-American at United hired as a pilot. So for us [to] give back to these young girls, it's huge for me because I know they're looking up to us. It would have been great for me to look up to someone, but that's OK now because now we're giving back."

"It's an incredible feeling just to be in charge of these young girls, mentoring them to do what they want to do professionally."

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023