In 1998, M’Lis Ward became the first Black woman to become a captain for United Airlines
- and the first Black woman captain for any commercial passenger airline in the United States. According to Sisters of the Skies
, today, less than 1 percent of pilots are Black women. Numbers like that fuel Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools senior Bitanya Gudeta to soar high in her pursuit to become an airline pilot.
As a sophomore at Reynoldsburg’s eStem Academy, Bitanya started to consider life after high school. Exploring her options at a career center seemed like the best course with diverse pathways.
“It was a way to get an early start on what I thought I would want for my future,” Bitanya said of the choice to attend Eastland-Fairfield. She wanted to avoid any changes in her major during her higher education career.
After the staff from Eastland-Fairfield made a visit to eStem Academy, Bitanya quickly moved from “interested” to “convinced.” Fast forward two years later, Bitanya’s intentions to pursue a career as an airline pilot are firm. Thanks to her education at EF she understands what lies ahead - many licenses, certifications, tests and hundreds of hours of flight training.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) awarded Bitanya with the $10,000 High School Flight School Training Scholarship for her passionate pursuit and demonstrations of leadership. The foundation awards 80 merit-based scholarships. Qualifications include having passed the FAA Private Pilot exam.
“Receiving this scholarship was a great honor,” she said. “It’s a big help for my future, too.”
Bitanya’s scholarship will be used to cover the costs of her private pilot flight training at the Fairfield County Airport. She won’t stop there. Bitanya plans to enroll at Ohio State University in the fall to pursue a four-year degree in aviation.
As a young, Black woman whose family imigrated from Ethiopia to the United States when she was nine, Bitanya takes great pride in pursuing the challenge of becoming an airline pilot - one of the highest ambitions in the industry. It is a motivating factor in reaching this feat.
“It won’t be easy,” she said as advice to other young women and underrepresented groups. “Sometimes you do feel alone in a very male-dominated career.” She added that reaching out to others and having solid support will go far.
“I am excited and nervous,” she said of her future. “I can’t wait to see what it will be like.”