The question I get asked the most is, “How did this flight happen?” Well…….Here’s my answer:
It was February 12, 2009 around 2:00pm when I arrived at work and signed in. I was on a reserve assignment, which is exactly like being on call if you’re a doctor. I walked into the crew lounge and saw a friend of mine, Brian Harris (who is now the airline’s first African American Chief Pilot). We sat at one of the round tables and were talking and laughing probably about much of nothing until my phone rang. It was the crew scheduling department. My employee number was next in line to receive an assignment (so yes, this was not planned-it was totally random)! They gave me an assignment and gate number and told me to try and get there as soon as possible. The other First Officer had become really ill and the gate agent had already boarded the passengers.
I quickly rushed to the gate to operate flight 5202 to Nashville, TN. I was greeted by the Flight Attendants, Robin Rogers and Diana Galloway. The passengers clapped hysterically as to say, “We’re glad you’re here but can you please hurry up?!” The Flight Attendants took my bags and when I approached the cockpit, Captain Rachelle Jones, the only black female Captain at our airline, turned around to greet me.
I was floored. I couldn’t believe it. We instantly knew that this moment was special and we better get it right! I didn’t know Rachelle personally, but we’d met in passing a few weeks prior and exchanged pleasantries. We said that we hope that we fly together one day. We had no idea it would be this soon.
Once we were done with pre-flighting, our checklists, and briefings, Captain Jones turned and asked me if I wanted to fly the leg to Nashville or did I want to fly the segment from Nashville back to Atlanta. I said, “I’ll fly first!” So, we taxied out to the runway with huge smiles on our faces and when Air Traffic Control cleared us for takeoff, Captain Jones looked at me and said, “Your controls.” I said, “My controls.” I simultaneously took my feet of the brakes while powering the engines to take off mode, and off we went, flight 5202 flew right into aviation history.
When we got to the gate in Nashville, and all of the passengers were off, we asked the gate agent would she take our picture. So we stuffed ourselves in the galley and one by one, she took our cell phones and snapped our picture. She asked us, “Why do you want your pictures taken?” Flight Attendant, Diana Galloway said, “Oh, it’s because we’re sisters!” The gate agent’s response was priceless. She said, “Oh, your mother must be so proud!”
Right before the first passenger boarded our plane for Flight 5106 back to Atlanta, I asked the other Flight Attendant, Robin Rogers, could she snap a picture of Rachelle and I in the cockpit. She did, then it was back to work and Rachelle flew us back to Atlanta. That was the first and last time that we all flew together. Captain Rachelle Jones is now First Officer Rachelle Kerr with Delta Airlines. Since our flight she’s gotten married and has a daughter. Flight Attendant Diana Galloway is now retired and is a Breast Cancer Survivor! Flight Attendant, Robin Rogers still works at ExpressJet Airlines. I am also still with ExpressJet Airlines and since our historic flight, I’ve gotten married to my wonderful husband and we have two beautiful children.
Not only am I proud of our place in history, I’m honored to share it with some of the greatest women that I know. We have become family; sisters indeed! I want to thank Rachelle Jones Kerr, Robin Rogers, and Diana Galloway for being courageous enough to dream big. It’s a testament that your Dreams really can become Reality!
Yesterday we were honored in a “First in Flight” luncheon hosted by the Metro Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA). I will let you in on all the details next week. So, make sure to subscribe to the blog so that you won’t miss out! Have a great weekend!
To watch media videos of the crew CLICK HERE.