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First Black Woman Commercial Airline Captain Now Helping Create Pathways For Future Black Women Aviators

First Black Woman Commercial Airline Captain Now Helping Create Pathways For Future Black Women Aviators

She's ensuring more young Black girls have access to the aviation industry! 

The first Black woman commercial airline captain is now helping create pathways for future Black women aviators, CBS Denver 4 reports.

This November, M’Lis Ward will celebrate her 30th anniversary with United Airlines, previously serving in the National Guard and the military. Looking back on her journey to becoming the first Black woman captain in the commercial passenger airline industry, Ward says it’s been a wonderful time, but it doesn’t feel like three decades have passed.

 “First of all, it does not feel like I’ve been at United 30 years, this is the best job you can ever imagine. Going to work every day is like going to play and so, no, it doesn’t feel like it’s been 30 years. I also don’t feel like I’m 30 years older than when I got hired,” 9 News reports Ward saying. 

Ward, who received her historic promotion to captain in 1998, is now working alongside United Airlines to help increase diversity in their pilots, looking to bring in more than 2,000 pilots of color and women by 2030 through its Aviate Academy.

“It really does create a pathway for those that would have never had that opportunity in the first place,” Ward explained. “We have to give some deference to people who normally would not have that opportunity. Whether it is because of exposure or financial ability. We have to get young Black girls interested in flying.”

Currently, out of the 14,000 pilots at United Airlines, Ward is a part of the elite 7% that are women, a statistic that serves as motivation for her. She explains, "For young women and minorities that opportunity is not there because there was no one ahead of them. So what we have to do is create those pathways.”

The veteran pilot spends time training others in the simulator but maintains the best thing about her job is absolutely the passengers, and of course, takeoff and landing. No stranger to breaking barriers, Ward credits her mother, the first Black woman to graduate from The University of Chicago Medical School, with instilling that drive in her to never give up. Ward says she hopes she can be an inspiration to other women as well. 

“Maybe I won’t be just a story anymore, because Black women pilots will become more common,” Ward said.  

Thank you, Captain Ward for paving the way for future Black women aviators. 

Photo Courtesy of United Airlines 

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