Woman Becomes First Black Female Pilot In Georgia National Guard
By Sharelle Burt
Despite what the media says, black people are making major moves in a variety of fields. Any news that comes out of Black History Month deserves special recognition. Like Lt. Andrea Lewis, who just made history as the first black woman to become a pilot in the Georgia National Guard.
Flying was instilled in Lewis’ blood at an early age. Growing up, she wanted to be a flight attendant like her mom, but she really wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a pilot. Lewis applied to be a flight attendant for the Air Force Reserves, in hopes that she would combine her desires. “At first I was a little hesitant, but my dad encouraged me and it was a great fit,” Lewis said. Lewis got the job and became the second civilian hired as an Air Force flight attendant, a position usually reserved for airmen, but since Lewis had a degree in French and studied abroad, she fit right in.
The Atlanta native and University of Georgia graduate was happy with her new position. When her father passed in 2010, however, things changed. She knew she had to pursue her ultimate dream. Her coworkers kept her encouraged. “Through them, I was able to start my initial involvement with flying airplanes,” Lewis said. While still working for Delta Airlines as an attendant, Lewis was accepted into the Georgia Air National Guard in 2014 and soon after was hired to be a pilot for the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, an aircraft built with radar and surveillance systems that take pictures of the ground and feed the images back to command centers. “It’s amazing,” Lewis said. “I feel like it’s what I was meant to do.”
Lewis stands on the shoulders of other female black pilots that have come before her, like Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license and Stephanie Johnson, Delta Airlines’ first black female captain. She is also a rare breed. According to Women in Aviation International, there are close to 43,000 commercial and non-commercial women pilots, which isn’t much since there are over 600,000 pilots in total. “I’m just honored to be thought of in the same light,” Lewis said. “They were definitely trailblazers for me. So, I hope people see me in the same light.”
The 31-year-old hopes that her accomplishments will encourage other young people with the same dream. Though her deployment details haven’t been carved in stone yet, it’s rumored that Lewis will be heading to Southwest Asia.