UPS pilot paves way for other Black female pilots

Women's History Month

(NewsNation) — Angel Hughes has always had her eyes on the skies.

As a young girl growing up in Newark, New Jersey, Hughes, a retired U.S. Coast Guard pilot, would always see commercial airline pilots when she traveled.

“So that was kind of the goal as a little girl,” she said.

As she traveled, though, she noticed little girls like her didn’t have much representation in the industry.

“I’d never seen a young Black female pilot in uniform, flying jumbo jets doing exactly what I wanted to do,” Hughes, now a pilot for UPS, said.

UPS, one of the world’s largest cargo carriers, still has less than 200 female pilots— that’s nearly 6% of its pilot base. And in the United States, less than 1% of all certified pilots across the aviation industry are Black women.

That didn’t stop Hughes. She mapped out her flight path early, at just 16 years old, taking up from flight school to the military. After learning the ropes as an active duty pilot for 11 years, the mom of three started working for UPS, taking off from its main American hub in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 2017, Hughes co-founded Sisters of the Skies, a nonprofit organization that supports future Black female pilots through mentorship and scholarship.

“For women to thrive in any fields that they’re a minority in, they need that emotional support,” Hughes said. “They need that emotional networking.”

Since Sisters of the Skies was created, it has gone from 30 members to nearly 200, and donated $500,000 in flight school scholarships to young women.

“It’s a viable career path,” Hughes said. “It’s a great career path and we shouldn’t just let the guys have all the fun.”

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