MEET THE CREW

FLIGHT CREW

LT Christine Angel Hughes, USCG
Founder

Christine Angel Hughes was born in New York to Haitian immigrant

parents on July 12, 1986.  Shortly after birth, she moved to Haiti to live with

her grandparents for a few years.  By the time she was four, she moved back

to New York for a few months before finally settling in her hometown in

Northern New Jersey.

Angel has had the passion to fly since she was 11 years old.  At 16

years of age, she joined the Eagle Flight Squadron (East Orange, NJ) and

received the opportunity to begin taking flight lessons at Caldwell Airport in

NJ.  She would later receive her Private Pilot's License at age 17, prior to

leaving for college.

Angel attended Jacksonville University, in Florida, and graduated in

2008 as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI/CFII).  She later joined the United

States Coast Guard in 2009. Immediately upon completion of Officer

Candidate School, she reported to Navy Flight School in Pensacola, FL and

Corpus Christi, TX.  In 2011, LT Hughes earned her Naval Aviator Wings

and reported to her first tour of duty in Miami, FL.  As a dynamic Coast

Guard Aviator, LT Hughes has deployed several times in the Caribbean and

regularly executes missions involving search and rescue, homeland security,

drug trafficking, illegal immigration, law enforcement, medical evacuations,

and disaster relief.

LT Hughes is currently stationed in Mobile, AL. When she isn’t

flying, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children.

She is an Aircraft Commander in the HC-144 Ocean Sentry and will be at

her current unit until 2019.

Nia I. (Gilliam) Wordlaw
Co-Founder

Nia Wordlaw is a commercial airline pilot with over 20 years of experience in the aviation industry.  As an African American female, she represents less than 1 percent of commercial airline pilots in the United States.  Nia's unique position in an industry where African American women are underrepresented has captured the interest of many across the nation.  She was featured in the April 2006 edition of Ebony Magazine, the September 2015 edition of Marie Claire Magazine, and was recently featured in PBS American Masters: The Women's List, a documentary featuring 15 trailblazers, who have shaped and influenced American Culture.  Nia's interest in flying began at the early age of 10, and she regularly speaks to inspire and motivate others through her organization, "Purpose, Faith, Fly."  Nia was recently awarded the 2016 Egretha Award presented annually to extraordinary African American women.  Nia is a native of Chicago, Illinois and is married to her high school sweetheart, where she currently resides outside of Houston, TX, with their two kids.

Theresa Claiborne
President

Theresa Claiborne was born on May 25, 1959 to Morris Claiborne Sr. and Dorothy Claiborne in Emporia, VA.  As a military dependent she traveled the world.  She graduated with honors from Elk Grove Sr. High School and attended California State University of Sacramento, majoring in Media Communications with a minor in Journalism.  Theresa attended the University of California at Berkeley for Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC). On June 20, 1981 she was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force (USAF).  She attended Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Laughlin AFB, TX, and graduated on September 16, 1982, class 82-08 as the FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALE PILOT in the USAF. Theresa served on active duty for seven years flying the KC-135A.  She left active duty in September 1988.  She continued her military career with the USAF Reserves. She served as an instructor pilot on the KC-135E and a flight commander. She rose to the rank of Lt Colonel. Theresa retired from the military on January 6, 2003 with over 3000 military flight hours.

While flying in the USAF Reserves, on January 15, 1990, Theresa was hired by

United Airlines. She started as a flight engineer on the Boeing 727 and has since been qualified and flown the Boeing 737, 757,767, and the 747. She is currently flying as a Captain on the Boeing 757/767 and has accumulated a total of over 15,000 flight hours. Theresa is one of 15 black female pilots at United Airlines which employees over 12,000 pilots.

Among her numerous awards: “Who’s Who Among American High School

Students-1977, Elk Grove High School Hall of Fame-1985, YWCA “Outstanding Woman Award"-1995, and induction into the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals “Hall of Fame"-2017.  Military awards are many including the Meritorious Service Medal.  She has also been featured in numerous national publications including Ebony, Jet, and Essence Magazines. She was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning: “Farewell to the Queen of the Skies" a tribute to the retirement of United’s Boeing 747 fleet.  An accomplished public speaker, she has been featured on several documentaries about women in aviation and can be seen on the “Black Americans in Flight" mural at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

Captain Tara Wright
Director of Development

In 1993, Captain Tara Wright graduated cum laude, with a BS in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  Over the next 25 years, she worked as a pilot for 5 different airlines, a Fortune 500 Flight Department, as well as her own Air Carrier.

 

Captain Tara Wright is a pioneer in aviation, recording many “firsts” along the way.  The first African American woman pilot for US Airways, the first African American woman to pilot for a Fortune 500 Company, the first African American woman to own and operate an air charter company, the first African-American woman pilot for Alaska Airlines, and the first Captain at Alaska Airlines.

 

Captain Tara Wright is passionate about exposing underrepresented groups to aviation and has worked with the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) for over a decade to accomplish this.  Tara will continue to work with OBAP as well as Sisters of the Skies, Inc. to focus on increasing the number of African American women pilots throughout the aviation industry.  

 

Captain Tara Wright resides in her hometown, the San Francisco Bay Area, with her loving and supportive husband of 24 years, Wayne Wright, Jr., and their young adult children, Olivia, Joshua, and Wayne III.

GROUND CREW

Bethoyia Powell
Advisor

Jamaican-born Integrated Operations Duty Officer, Bethoyia Powell, recalls her mother’s dream for her three daughters to have a better life and education. In the parish of St. Mary, Jamaica, women were raised to be homemakers but First Officer Powell broke that mold with the assistance of her family members, mostly her mother. Her first step to breaking the mold was completing high school at that age of 16, whilst also taking her first solo flight. She obtained her private pilot license at 17 and her commercial license at 18. At 21, she was hired by American Eagle, eventually becoming a captain on the ATR42/72 and EMB.

In the year 2014, Beth achieved her goal and joined American Airlines as a First Officer on the B737. This move was a joyous achievement for both Powell and her late mother. Her mother inspired her to attain her goals and to dream big and that encouraged her to give back to others who were told their lives would be ordinary and stick to the status Quo. Powell started a scholarship to mentor children in aviation. Her message today is “Know what you want at a young age. You will discover this based on the activities are subjects that you are passionate about. Dream big and dream loud then set your goal. Your passion will propel you through your journey. And in the end, you will never feel you worked a day in your life because you are doing what you absolutely love.”

Powell understands the purpose of hard work and has graciously reaped the rewards. She stands here today an island girl with nothing but a dream and has risen as one of the 1st African-American female pilots in management with American Airlines.
 

Dr. Sheila L. Chamberlain
Advisor

Sheila L. Chamberlain grew up in West Germany, graduated from Fort Knox High School and received her B.A. degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia with Post graduate studies in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma and earned her J.D. from the University of Miami School Of Law. The daughter of a retired US Army Combat Engineer and mother who was a business owner, nurse and 27-year military wife, Ms. Chamberlain pursued a United States Army career and became the Army’s first African American Woman Combat Intelligence Pilot.

Ms. Chamberlain served on active duty during the Grenada/Panama Invasion and the Persian Gulf War with three tours in the Republic of Korea and Latin America.  She is a General George C. Marshall Award Winner and Distinguished Military Graduate (Georgia Tech); graduate of the US Army Counterintelligence Human Intelligence Course, US Army Aviation Flight School, Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Schools, Joint Aerospace Command and Control Course, Army Combined Arms Service Staff College and the Marine Corp Command and General Staff College.  Ms. Chamberlain’s distinctive military career includes 15 years of service in the U.S. and abroad, two command posts and numerous civilian and military honors including the National Defense Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal and The Tuskegee Airmen Blades award.  During flight school she became the sole mentee of the famous Willa Brown Chappell, the first African American woman to run for the U.S. Congress and historical American Aviatrix.  She later became a member of the Fort Rucker Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, honoring the legacy of her cousin, the famous Memphis Bomber Luke Weathers who was one of the original Tuskegee Airman with the 332nd Fighter Group.

Later in her career, her unit was sent to stabilize South Florida after the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which is considered the worst disaster in American History.  It was during her time in South Florida that she decided to leave the Army.  Prior to leaving, she was asked to come before various members of the Congressional House of Representatives Armed Services Committee to give information on why women pilots should be assigned to combat aviation units.  When asked if she wanted to stay to continue her career, she responded “I have survived and hopefully this will open the door for future women who just want to fly for their country.”  One year after leaving, the Department of Defense officially declared that women would be allowed to fly combat aviation aircraft throughout the services.

Today, Ms. Chamberlain remains politically active and mentors young people toward success- including those who seek careers in aviation.

Mary Smith
Advisor

Mary Smith has almost a decade of professional aviation experience. Currently, Mary is with United Airlines and works at the Flight Training Center on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  As the Training Program Manager, she is responsible for over 50 Flight Instructors, Ground Instructors, and Sim Check Airmen.  Mary is charged with running the day to day operation of a flight training organization that supports hundreds of Boeing 787 pilots.

Mary Smith has previously served many other aviation-related non-profits including OBAP, BPA, WAI, BCAL, EAA, AOPA, and now SOS! She holds an M.B.A. from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach and specialized in Airline Management.  Her undergraduate degree is from Ohio University in Aviation Management.  Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio she now calls Denver, Colorado her home.

Major Kenneth “KT” Thomas
Advisor


Major Kenneth “KT” Thomas is an Air Force Instructor Combat Systems Officer (Navigator) responsible for training the Air Force’s next generation of aviators. As the son of two Air Force parents Kenny’s fascination with flight started at a young age from air shows, movies, and TV as a child. He sought out as much information as he could about aviation but didn’t know any aviators to help direct his path. His research and fascination with planes led Kenny to start his Air Force career as an avionics technician on the F-16. After completing his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Kenny received a commission as an officer through kAir Force ROTC. He has served worldwide and flown over 2000 hours, 650 of which were in combat. He’s flown various aircraft to include E-8C JSTARS, T-43, T-1A, and T-6 Texan II.

Kenny has always felt a calling to enhance his community wherever he lives. He’s been involved with mentoring in both the Big Brother/Big Sister and Guide Right programs, and the Chappie James Flight Academy. He’s also the Chairman of the Pensacola Kappa League Leadership Program. With his passion for serving others and talent for leadership, it was only natural that when Kenny recognized the lack of diversity and representation in aviation, he would choose to do something about it. While stationed at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Kenny initiated a program called Eyes Above the Horizon and introduced a group of local youth to aviation, and the Tuskegee Airmen through the Legacy Flight Academy (LFA).  As President of the Legacy Flight Academy, Kenny Thomas has influenced over 10K youth, and has flown over 1000 kids.

 

Anne Thomas Sulton, Ph.D, J.D.
Legal Counsel

Since receiving her law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985, Anne has focused her law practice on litigating civil rights cases in federal courts.  In recognition of her outstanding achievements as a civil rights attorney, she received the coveted "William Robert Ming Advocacy Award" from the NAACP at its July 2007 National Convention in Detroit. 

 

Anne also holds a Ph.D. in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland-College Park.  She has served as a faculty member at several colleges and universities, including Spelman College in Atlanta, Howard University in Washington, DC, and New Jersey City University.  As a criminologist, Anne has conducted empirical research, and published articles and books on criminal justice topics.  Anne frequently gives keynote speeches on civil rights, crime prevention, and urban education.  She also serves as an expert witness.

Anne has given dozens of keynote speeches. Among her major addresses are a Wingspread Briefing on Crime Prevention and the Wilmington, Delaware NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet. She has appeared on scores of television and radio programs, including the McNeil Lehrer Newshour and CNN.
Since 1975, Anne has been a member of the press. She currently serves as Senior International Correspondent for the Jackson Advocate Newspaper - Mississippi's largest weekly newspaper - covering stories in Japan, Thailand, India, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Dubai, France, Austria, Egypt, Turkey, and Canada.


On a more personal note, in 1977, Anne became the first African American female in Atlanta to earn a private pilot's license.  Since then, she has developed aviation education programs for youth.  In 2005, she organized African American female pilots' visit to Chicago and Rue, France to honor Bessie Coleman and the men making it possible for her to become the world's first licensed African American pilot in 1921.

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