On February 11, 2023, Sisters of the Skies, Inc. (“SOS”) hosted a fabulous black-tie scholarship awards banquet at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Houston, Texas. The event was attended by more than 500 pilots, aviation professionals, and their supporters. More than $200,000 in flight training scholarships were awarded to female African Americans aspiring and qualified to work as professional pilots.
The smallest scholarship award was $5,000. Boeing contributed $100,000 for five flight training scholarships, each worth $20,000. United Airlines was the primary event sponsor. However, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and most of the major airlines were represented and contributed to making this event, which was SOS’s 5th annual scholarship awards banquet, a huge success.
Theresa Claibourne, a United Airlines Captain flying the Boeing 787 on international routes and SOS President of the Board and a founding member, expressed her deep appreciation for United Airlines’ sponsorship of the gala. She said: “United not only sponsored the gala, they gave 25K in scholarship … UAL has been important in our journey.”
As the awardees approached the stage to accept their scholarships – an opportunity to realize their dreams – some shed tears of joy. It was inspiring to see these young women dressed in brilliantly colored formal gowns confidently step in 5-inch heels through the door likely marked “realizing your dreams awaits but still is on the other side of the hard work you must do here.”
SOS members arrived in their formal dress pilot uniforms. They were impressive. It was fun watching Stephanie Grant, a United Airlines Pilot and a SOS Board member, and other mom pilots handling last minute gala event details as their young children played in the banquet hall.
Jackson’s own rising star Shanti Guice attended with her mother and two aunts. Guice is 15 years old and currently training to obtain her private pilot’s license. She met and interacted with dozens of female African Americans currently working as professional pilots. Guice also met Lt. General Stayce Harris. Now retired, Lt. General Harris was a U.S. Air Force pilot, rose to the rank of a three-star general, and also flew as a United Airlines Pilot.
Also among the legendary female African American pilots in attendance were Lt. Col. Marcella Hayes Ng and Dr. Sheila Chamberlain. Lt. Col. Ng, now retired, flew helicopters for the U.S. Army. Dr. Chamberlain, also now retired, was a combat intelligence aviator, flying helicopters and airplanes for the U.S. Army.
For additional information please visit sistersoftheskies.org
Publisher’s Note: Dr. Sulton was the first female African American to earn a private pilot’s license in Georgia in 1977. She currently serves as SOS legal counsel.