According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black Americans only make up less than 3% of U.S. commercial pilots across the country. One father-daughter is breaking barriers within the field, and celebrating a long career in aviation.
Fiona Austin-McDonald and her father, Wade Austin-McDonald, bonded over their love of travel and flying since she was a child. As a full-time pilot, the Guyana native credits her father for inspiring her career path of being a women in the cockpit. Visiting her dad at work lead to working as a flight attendant to gain industry experience.
“It feels really good to follow in his footsteps, but this job is one where you have to create your own path. It is a very dynamic career and all the work is on you. No one else can fly for you, do your check rides or perform your duties. His story may also be totally different from mine as a woman in aviation,” Fiona said in an interview with Because Of Them We Can
“For me, it was epic – I was excited [too] and a bit emotional but masked it very well as we had work to do. But I can’t shake the memory of being really proud of how far we have come as Black people. I was proud of him, proud of myself as a woman, and proud of us as a family.”
Fiona went on her Instagram page to share memories and a touching tribute to her father for this birthday, reminiscing about their time in the sky to celebrate his retirement after over 40 years of flying. It has been an honor to fly with you,” she wrote.
“You’ve taught us how to work hard for what we want passed on so much knowledge to many Caribbean men and women who became great pilots because of trainers like you.”