In honor of Black History Month, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA) hosted “First In Flight,” a luncheon and panel discussion with the first (and, to date, only) African-American, all-female flight crew. The event was held Thursday, Feb. 11 in the Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education at Meharry Medical College in North Nashville. The panel discussion was moderated by NewsChannel 5 anchor Vicki Yates. Davita Taylor, Director, Business Diversity Development and Special Assistant to the President and CEO, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority served as Mistress of Ceremony.
On Feb. 12, 2009, Captain Rachelle Jones Kerr, First Officer Stephanie Grant and flight attendants Robin Rogers and Diana Galloway flew and attended Atlantic Southeast Airlines’ Flight 5202 from Atlanta to Nashville and returned to Atlanta on Flight 5106. Following the flights, it was confirmed they were, indeed, the first African-American, all-female flight crew, and, to their knowledge, the only crew since.
“There’s maybe 30 African Americans that fly commercially, so it’s very important that the word gets out that this is a career that they can achieve as well,” First Officer Stephanie Grant said at the event.
“Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight #5202 was a historic milestone in the world of aviation, and we’re proud and honored that Nashville International Airport played a part in this landmark event,” said Rob Wigington, MNAA president and CEO. “As part of the Airport Authority’s celebration of Black History Month, we were honored to host the flight crew who made history right here in our city.”
Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight Crew #5106 also speoke to students at McGavock High School’s Aviation Academy before the luncheon and Donelson Middle School afterwards.
“It seems fitting that this historic flight happened to take place during Black History month,” Atlantic Southeast Airlines President and COO Brad Holt said at the time, in February of 2009. “Not only are these women gifted in their professions, but they set examples for young people across the country that with hard work, passion and determination, the sky is the limit.”
The historic flight was not planned to have the crew it did, as Grant was actually a substitute for another first officer who had called in sick. Most of the crew was unaware that it was about to fly into the record books. Captain Rachelle Jones, one of only 10 black female commercial pilots in the United States at the time, got it right away: she and Grant in the cockpit, Galloway and Rogers in the cabin – all black, all female.
“I said this could be a first, so let’s be on our P’s and Q’s,” said Jones at the time, who had entered the industry as a customer service agent at Delta. Piloting wasn’t on her radar until a friend suggested it. “And it paid off – and this was my goal – to be here where I am today,” she said. “And I’m so happy at what I’ve accomplished.”