Northampton, MA –News Direct– American Airlines
In March 2019, a fellow American Airlines pilot and fellow pilot introduced First Officer Tammy Binns to Sisters of the Skies (SoS), an organization of professional black pilots committed to supporting future black aviators.
“The Sisters of the Skies mission to increase the number of women of color in aviation through scholarship, mentorship, outreach and professional development was definitely something I knew I wanted to be in. get involved,” Tammy said. “I was immediately immersed in the mix with SoS, starting with a Girls Rock Wings event, and I’ve loved every minute of it since. It’s the biggest fraternity I’ve ever been a part of. We we are truly a family – a working family.
Tammy currently sits on the organization’s mentoring committee and has mentored several young women through SoS and the American Airlines Cadet Academy. America’s premier cadet program helps bridge the gap between a future pilot’s dreams and reality by connecting potential pilots – including those with no flight experience – with funding opportunities for the pilot school. Most importantly, the program provides the resources, mentorship, and support needed to enter the decorated, yet demanding profession. Since its launch in 2018, approximately 500 cadets have enrolled in the program, many of whom are already working in a flight deck today.
“My goal as a leader and mentor in the pilot space is to show young women of color that they can be authentic and do this job well,” Tammy added. “I want to be someone reliable who makes these kids realize that their dreams and goals are achievable. Personally, I didn’t even consider a career as a pilot until I was in college. I went to school to get a degree in music and luckily an aptitude test led me to take flying lessons. Otherwise, I might not be where I am today.
But Tammy admitted the ride hasn’t always been smooth. She finds the biggest challenge as a black pilot has been making sure her voice is heard and seen as an equal on the flight deck. Now, Tammy uses her experiences to mentor future aviators on their journey to becoming professional pilots.
“If you make too much noise, you run the risk of being called an angry black woman, but if you don’t say anything, you don’t demand the respect you deserve,” Tammy explained. “It’s a tough tightrope walk.”
Through it all, Tammy is grateful for the opportunities and memories she has created over the past 15 years as part of the American family. One of his fondest memories was having the opportunity to pilot his mother for the first time when she worked at American Eagle, American’s regional operation.
“My mom was on my flight to Key West, Florida, where I was living at the time,” Tammy said. “When we got there and found ourselves on the way to the plane at baggage claim, the first thing she said was, ‘I think you dropped something there- low! And I had to tell him it was the sound of the landing gear coming down. Of course she was joking, but I felt such a sense of pride to be able to fly my mom that day and share that memory with her.
The path to becoming a pilot at the world’s largest airline was neither easy nor quick, but Tammy’s passion for mentoring and educating young women across the country is high on her list of priorities. Between flying safely with thousands of people each week, she plans to continue living out her mission to educate and inspire young women of color to pursue careers as pilots, while remaining true to themselves.
“Pilots don’t have to be male, they don’t have to be white, they don’t have to be straight,” Tammy said. “You don’t have to sacrifice who you are to get here. It’s hard work and there are always hurdles to overcome, but there is a place for students and passionate aviators in this industry if they want to be here.
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