Design Your Life

Meet Beth Powell, An American Airlines Pilot Encouraging Others To Reach New Heights

By Parker Diakite

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At a time when most teenagers are trying to figure out their plans and hone in on what they want to be when they grow up, Beth Powell not only graduated from high school, she also completed her first solo flight as a pilot.

And that was just the beginning of her achievements.

By the time she was 17,  Powell had obtained her private pilot license, followed by a commercial license at 18 years old.

When Powell turned 21, she was hired by American Eagle, where she became a pilot on the ATR42/72 and EMB.

In 2014, Powell obtained another goal. She joined American Airlines as a First Officer on the Boeing 737.

The move to American Airlines was a joyous achievement for both Powell and her late mother. Her mother inspired her to attain her goals and to dream big, encouraging her to give back to others who were told to stick to the status quo. Powell later started a scholarship in honor of her mother to mentor and assist youth in aviation.


Travel Noire: What inspired you to become a pilot?

Powell: I got the tap on my shoulder and the realization that I can be a pilot from my school teacher. I loved numbers and all subjects pertaining to math. I was then introduced to the idea that I was a technical learner and was suited to become a pilot, mechanic, or engineer.

Travel Noire: You worked three jobs to put yourself through flight school, where did you go to school?

I started in Jamaica at Wings Jamaica Ltd. My parents sent me to Flight Safety in Vero Beach where I attained my instrument, multi-ratings, and commercial licenses. When my parents could no longer afford to pay for me to complete my training, I worked three jobs to obtain the funds to pay for my instructor license that built the hours to get to American Eagle.

Travel Noire: What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

My message to the next generation: know what you want at a young age. You will discover this based on the activities and subjects that you are passionate about. Dream big and dream loud, and then set your goal. Your passion will propel you through your journey. And in the end, you will never feel you worked a day in your life because you are doing what you absolutely love.

Also, you have to align yourself with mentors. They have been in your shoes and are there to guide you.

Travel Noire: In the next 10 or 20 years, how do you envision the pilot industry, in terms of diversity?

The airlines and various organizations such as the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Sisters of the Skies and Women in Aviation International as well as other pilots are working diligently to bring awareness to the possibilities and opportunities in the field of aviation.

I’m truly blessed to be working for a company that supports diversity. Along with visiting schools to bring awareness to aviation, scholarships, and our company’s cadet program, we will see a significant shift in more diverse pilots in the aviation industry. I’m currently serving as a mentor for American’s new cadet program.

Travel Noire: I imagine that you’ve flown all over the world, where is your favorite destination thus far and why?

I’m from the Caribbean, so I still enjoy flying back to the Caribbean and the warmer weather. One of my favorite islands is St. Maarten. I enjoy being in the Caribbean with European culture and the diverse community of the Caribbean, French and Dutch.

Travel Noire: Any destination on your bucket list? If so, why?

I’ve been to Japan on vacation with my sister, but I’m looking forward to traveling there on the Boeing 777 or 787 someday to fly to more parts of Asia and South America – it’s an untapped territory for me. The way of life is so very different there, and I want to walk a mile in the shoes of those who are from an Eastern background.

Travel Noire: How can our readers find out more about the scholarship in honor of your mother?

I will be merging my scholarship with Sisters of the Skies next year, so we can expand our reach and expose more African American little girls to the possibilities of flight.

First Officer Beth Powell. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

 

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Parker Diakite

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