Aviation for Women

MAY-JUN 2018

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

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M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 8 AviationforWomen 19 volunteer work through OBAP. He was working at Great Lakes Airlines, and I was trying to get hired there," Tahirah says. "I ended up getting hired at Great Lakes in 1998, and David and I began dating. Beyond his intellect, I was attracted to his calm demeanor, because at that time, I'm evolving into the woman I want to become." As the two pilots grew closer, discovering they were a perfect complement to one another, they still had their sights on bigger goals. FedEx Express had made Tahirah's short list, and she called them on a regular basis. "I would see Beverly Hyter, a pilot recruiter with FedEx, at confer- ences twice a year and would pepper her with questions. She kept reminding me to come back when I had my time in the books," she says. "I just kept trying, and they said, 'You're kind of irritating, but in a good way.' " Her persistence paid off in a huge way, and in November 2002 Tahirah was hired as the first African-American female pilot at Fed Ex. "I was struck by a number of things about FedEx, namely the family environment that hits you upon arrival, as well as the sched- ule and flexibility here—it's incredible," Tahirah says. "But even more fascinating is that I joined an enterprise in FedEx, which to- day is made up of more than 400,000 talented people around the globe. You can't help but meet amazing people all the time, who in some form or fashion shape your life." From her longtime mentor, the recently retired Capt. Henry Rogers, whom she met through Beverly Hyter before she ever took a step onto FedEx property, to people like Charles Miller, whom she met this past fall, Tahirah beams with pride about the quality of character that make up the FedEx workforce. She met Charles in Pittsburgh, where the Memphis-based ramp agent had volunteered to load an MD-11 with relief supplies for the people in Puerto Rico, who had just been ravaged by Hurricane Maria. As Tahirah was thanking the load team, she was taken aback by his response. "He told me that he was so happy to see me, and said he had been at FedEx for more than 20 years, and that seeing me in my pilot's uniform made his career," she says. "He acknowledged that I had made sacri- fices, and that he was going to share his meeting me with his daughter. Charles then told me, 'You may not know that you have a fan club, and I'm your number one fan.'" Having that kind of impact on a fellow African- American, particularly one raising a young daugh- ter, reminds Tahirah of her responsibility to give back. Now going on her 17th year as a member of WAI, Tahirah wants anyone aspiring to become a pilot to realize it comes down to connections, and more importantly, the willingness to seek out those relationships that help take you where you wish to be. "As you see from my story, forming bonds has been key to my journey. As a result, mentoring is so important to me," she says. "Speaking with men and women who are coming up in the field and letting them know some of the pitfalls, giving them guidance from what I learned, and connecting them with people who can help them along provide me as much joy as I get from flying." Tahirah also wants everyone to appreciate another truism that guides her along her path. "The biggest obstacle in front of you is yourself," she says. "Knowing who you are is essential. By doing so, you can better fo- cus on attaining what you want in life." In true Tahirah fashion, she completed her line check airman training this past October and is now instructing scores of FedEx pilots. She and David were married in 2003 and have been living in Scottsdale, Arizona, for 18 years. He's a B-757 captain for the Pur- ple and Orange (going on 13 years), and it's safe to say this talented duo is FedEx family for life. The two captains are also raising a family of their own. Though Tahirah may be several time zones away from her Brooklyn home, the family lessons instilled by Wayne and Emma are still top-of- mind. Raising two very driven daughters, Nylah (11) and Nenah (9), Tahirah reflects on the values she and David are actively im- pressing upon the girls. "One big thing I tell them is they can follow, but don't follow blindly," Tahirah says. "And I stress how important it is to learn who they are, learn their strengths." With Tahirah at the helm, it looks like the best is yet to come for the Brown family. ✈ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Bielskis is a communications advisor for FedEx Express, supporting Flight Operations communications to the company's 4,600-plus global crewforce. Charles Miller (leŌ), Memphis-based ramp agent, says he's Tahirah's number one fan "As you see from my story, forming bonds has been key to my journey. As a result, mentoring is so important to me."

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