Growing up, Stephanie Johnson would think to herself: “What a great thing it would be to know how to fly.” There were no pilots in Johnson’s life at the time; however, that did not deter her from believing that she would one day soar the skies.
Johnson first experienced the thrill of flying in high school, when she found out her physics teacher had an airplane and was willing to take students flying. This inspired Johnson to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Aerospace technology at Kent State University, where she became the first person in her family to graduate from college.
Before landing her first job as a commercial pilot for Mesa Airlines, Johnson worked as a flight instructor at her alma mater and simultaneously clocked into work at Blockbuster video and in airport operations. By 1997, she became Northwest Airlines’ first Black female pilot. Little did she know that, almost 20 years later, she would make history again as Delta’s first Black female captain.
— Delta (@Delta) February 19, 2017advertisement
Johnson said of her historic accomplishment: “I feel a great sense of responsibility to be a positive role model. There are so few women in this profession and too many women who still don’t think of it as a career option. When I was hired by Northwest Airlines, there were 12 African-American women airline pilots in the country at the major airlines, and I knew all of their names.”
Stephanie, thank you for blazing a trail for future Black women aviators; we know Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license, would be very proud.