Carole Hopson is blazing a trail in the sky, showing other Black women that they belong in the cockpit.
The Federal Aviation Administration says that Black women make up less than 1 percent of all certified pilots, and Hopson — a pilot with United Airlines — is one of them. Hopson, 56, told People that as a kid, she would spend her summers mesmerized by the planes taking off and landing at Philadelphia International Airport. She went to college, studying Spanish and journalism, and started a career in human resources, but "the revelry and imagination of flying just stuck with me," Hopson said.
When they were dating, Hopson's husband, Michael, surprised her with flight lessons. Her husband and teenage sons have been "absolutely" supportive of Hopson following her dream of becoming a pilot, and since 2018, she's been full-time with United. A lot of people aren't used to seeing a Black woman as a pilot, she told People. Many do a double take, or ask her for a drink, thinking she's a flight attendant. Recently, a woman pulled Hopson aside at the airport and asked her, "'How does my daughter get to be like you?'" Hopson said. "It was a special moment."
United is launching a flight school to train 5,000 pilots by 2030, with half of them being women and people of color. Hopson — who was one of only two women, and the only Black woman, in her pilot class — is working with United and the nonprofit Sisters of the Skies to get 100 Black women enrolled in flight school by 2035. She is excited about this challenge, telling People, "Watching the sunrise above the clouds never gets old. That experience is one we should be exposing all women to." Catherine Garcia