Meet Brian Harris…ExpressJet Airline’s First African-American Chief Pilot

Memphis, Tennessee native Brian Harris is the second of three children born to Reverend and Mrs. Bethel L. Harris Jr. As a sixth grader Brian’s older brother inspired Brian’s dreams of flying the friendly skies. Soon thereafter his involvement in Boy Scouts of America provided an opportunity for him to become a participant in the National Aviation Explorers Program. This experience further solidified that flying planes was his destiny.


After graduation from Memphis Central High School, Brian enrolled at Tennessee State University (TSU). While at TSU Brian not only became a distinguished scholar, but also cultivated his leadership skills by serving the school community in numerous capacities: SGA President, Speaker of the House, member of the Varsity Baseball team, TSU Tiger Mascot, Peer Counselor, and President of the Beta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Brian graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering with a concentration in Aeronautical Technology.


In July of 1999, Brian enrolled at Comair Aviation Academy, in Sanford, Florida. While there he received his private pilot’s license and instrument rating. Placed in a self-imposed holding pattern Brian moved to Atlanta to marry the love of his life, Mytrice Harris. In February of 2001, Brian enrolled at Airline Transport Professionals, a flight school at the Charlie Brown Airport where he completed the rest of his training and was subsequently hired as a Certified Flight Instructor.


By July 2002 Brian’s dream of becoming an airline pilot were realized. Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) offered him a jet training scholarship through the Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP). This opportunity led into an offer for a First Officer position. During his first few years he acted as FO, captain, and a pilot recruiter.


In 2009, Brian’s passion for flying and educating children led him and his best friend to found “The Simple Science Factory, LLC.” This interactive Science Company focused on Science education at the elementary school level, but soon expanded to middle schools as well. Brian, known as “Professor Cool,” brought science to life for thousands of students, teachers and parents in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri.




Monday April 4, 2011, Brian accepted God’s call to ministry, since this time God has blessed him tremendously. A month after accepting God’s call, Brian became the first Black Assistant Chief pilot for Atlantic Southeast Airlines. He was again promoted in December of 2013, becoming the first Black Base Chief Pilot for ASA side of ExpressJet Airlines. In this role, Brian became one of the the highest ranking African Americans in a Flight Operations department comprised of over 5000 people. Brian has the largest base in the company and is responsible for the supervision of over 1500 pilots in Atlanta, Detroit, and Dallas.


Since accepting God’s call, Brian has begun work towards a Master of Divinity degree at Luther Rice University. He is a member of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), and is a faithful member of The Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church, “The House of Hope Atlanta.” Brian currently serves as the Sunday School Superintendent and as the Co-Coordinator for the Ministers of Hope and on December 17, 2014, was licensed to preach by his pastor, Dr. E. Dewey Smith, Jr. Previously, Brian served his beloved church family as the Youth and Young Adult Division Sunday School Superintendent, and the Blueprint Youth Step Team coach. He continues to support education and youth development through presentations at numerous elementary, middle, and high school Career Day programs.


Brian resides in the Metropolitan Atlanta area with his lovely wife of 15 years, Mytrice, and has three beautiful daughters, Briana, Brooklynn and Bailey.


Q. What advice do you have for high school and college students seeking to follow your path?


A. Do your best in everything you do. Show up to work prepared and on-time. Keep your nose clean. Try to get involved, in an effort to get to know the movers and the shakers.


Q. What has been your biggest obstacle?


A. Finances were my biggest obstacle, but luckily I had a support network that helped and pitched in.


Q. Who is your biggest inspiration?


A. My older brother was my biggest inspiration. I had never seen a black pilot, but he said he wanted to be a pilot so I said I wanted to be one too. I was in the 6th grade and he was in the 11th and like most little brothers I wanted to be just like him. I had not heard of OBAP, but the Boy Scouts had an Aviation Explorer program that I signed up for and the rest is history.


Q. What words of inspiration do you live by?


A. Keep a good attitude and treat people like you would like to be treated.




To find out what role Brian played in our historic flight, click HERE!


Disclaimer: The content for this blog post was provided by Jelani Kelley and Brian Harris.


22 thoughts on “Meet Brian Harris…ExpressJet Airline’s First African-American Chief Pilot”

  1. He is not the first African American chief pilot at ExpressJet. Charles Wheeler I know for a fact was before him and he was the Chicago base chief.

    1. Hi Andy! Brian Harris is the first for the ASA (Atlantic Southeast Airlines) side of ExpressJet Airlines as stated in the narrative. I would love to feature Charles Wheeler as the first one on the legacy side of ExpressJet! If you have his contact information and he’s willing, please send it through my contact page. Thank you!

    2. Elizabeth Keithley

      I hope you get the chance to look into Charles Wheeler, he was a great chief pilot at legacy ExpressJet Airlines 2007-2008, 2010-2012. And I know he is making a difference at legacy American Airlines now. Thank you for the time you took into writing about these pioneers.

  2. Waurine Harris-Campbell

    Congrats … Brian!!! So verrrrry PROUD of you, especially for your continued efforts as well as being the product of two of my loved classmates and former neighbor. It seems that the Lord is working with you still regarding your ministry … May the Power of Love and Protection Forever be with You and Yours!!!

    I too am the … product of Ministers / Pastors the Late: Rev Thomas Wardell and Evangelist Didentry Harris … Thank God for them … Love your Mom and Dad … Always To The Moon and Back!!

    Blessed To Be A Blessing,

    Waurine Harris-Campbell

  3. Michael and Laloma Harris

    Wonderful announcement. We are proud of this accomplishment,
    May God continue to bless your family.

  4. I had the opportunity to meet Mr Brian Harris on several occasions and its always a pleasure. He is very encouraging and a great inspiration to my aviation journey.

  5. Alfe White-Crawford

    Congrats Brian, it is so refreshing to see a very familiar face honored!!! You are an inspiration to many….

  6. Congrats brother! Proud of my fellow Warrior alumi. Glad to see you never forgot where you came from. Great job!

  7. We are proud to have Brian Harris as a member of OBAP! His perseverance, journey and continued investment in aspiring aviators ensures he may be one of the first but, he certainly won’t be the last. #OBAPExcellence

  8. Yvette Gilbert

    What a wonderful and inspiring story! I am a retired educator and work with the Youth Leadership Academy in Dekalb County. I would absolutely love for you to come and speak to our students this summer. Please let me know if this is possible.

  9. To all I’m a Pilot myself who has been very thankful of having 1500 hours and commercial rated now and Waiting on a job offer soon . I want to be hire as a proffesional pilot not the color of my skin that God has created me to be and blessed me with a loving family that supports me in every hour I fly I thank God for it . Hopefully the words on being the first black pilot isn’t the words I don’t want to hear when I’m hire to fly for this company that doesn’t have but hired on for my knowledge of aviation and the hard work on staying out in front to be the best pilot I can be and always thank God in everything we do . Put him first in everything we do in life before we start our day . Great job to have Brian sir .

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