Justin Mutawassim is not your typical pilot. He is a 27-year-old African American who worked his way up from being a ramp agent at Delta Air Lines to flying planes for the same company. His story is one of determination, guidance and passion.
How He Became a Pilot
Mutawassim was 5 years old when he took his first flight and got to see the cockpit. He was amazed by all the buttons and controls and decided he wanted to be a pilot someday.
But his dream was almost crushed by his middle school teacher, who was in the US Air Force, who told him he needed perfect vision to be a pilot. Mutawassim, who wore glasses, believed him and gave up on his dream.
He pursued a career in broadcasting instead after finishing high school. He went to college, got some jobs and liked it, but he felt something was missing.
He dropped out of college and got a job as a ramp agent at Delta Air Lines in 2014. He loaded baggages, supervised and trained other ramp agents. He enjoyed working at the airport, but he still had a longing for flying.
His life changed in 2016 when he met Ivor Martin, a Black pilot who became his mentor. Martin encouraged him to follow his dream and helped him plan his career path. With Martin’s help, Mutawassim completed his licenses in less than a year.
He started flying for a regional airline in 2018 and then for a start-up airline. In 2022, he applied to be a pilot at Delta after finding out that they no longer required a college degree for pilots. He passed the training and became an official Delta pilot.
How He Inspired Others and Made History
Mutawassim shared his achievement on Twitter. He posted a photo of him as a ramp agent in 2016 and as a pilot in 2022 with the words “How it started” and “How it’s going”. His tweet went viral and received thousands of likes and comments.
“This one has been 6 long years in the making,” he wrote.
Mutawassim, who lives in New York City, is now studying for a degree in Aviation Science and aiming to become a captain. He also volunteers as a mentor for aspiring pilots, giving back what Martin gave him.
He said he hopes his story will motivate other young people, especially those from underrepresented groups, to chase their dreams in aviation.
“I want them to know that it’s possible,” he said. “It’s not easy, but it’s possible.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 3% of commercial pilots in the US are Black. Mutawassim said he wants to see more diversity in the cockpit and more opportunities for people of color.
He also said he wants to thank Delta for giving him the chance to work for them twice and for supporting his career growth.
“Delta has been very good to me,” he said. “They’ve been very supportive of my journey.”
Mutawassim said he loves his job and feels grateful every time he flies.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “It’s like living my dream every day.”
In the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a young trailblazer is rewriting aviation history. Seventeen-year-old Gabriel Carothers has soared to new heights, becoming the youngest African-American pilot in the state and leaving an indelible mark on the skies. Carothers’ journey from a childhood fascination with flight to making history as a licensed pilot exemplifies dedication, passion, and a commitment to inspiring others in the field of aviation.
Gabriel Carothers’ love affair with aviation began at the tender age of five when he experienced the thrill of flight in a family friend’s Cessna 182. His father, Alex Carothers, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, played a pivotal role in nurturing this passion, taking Gabriel and his brother on flights that ignited a spark that would grow into a lifelong fascination.
At 14, Carothers took his enthusiasm for aviation to the next level by designing and building his own flight simulator. The process involved extensive research into computer components and programming, showcasing his commitment to understanding the intricate details of aviation technology. This early initiative reflected Carothers’ determination to hone his skills for future endeavors in the cockpit.
Carothers’ relentless pursuit of his dream reached a historic milestone when, at the age of 17, he completed his private pilot check ride. In doing so, he etched his name in New Mexico’s aviation history as the youngest African-American pilot, achieving a feat that wasn’t about making history for him but simply doing what he loves – flying. Click here to continue reading about Gabriel.
Justin and Gabriel are amazing young men flying and making Africa proud. We at Rising Africa wish you well in all you do.