Mary Smith cockpit

Mary Smith in the cockpit

Mary Smith

Mary Smith preparing to fly

Mary Smith sharing aviation with students

Mary Smith sharing aviation with students

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African-American student achieving her dream of flight

Inspired by pioneer Bessie Coleman, Mary Smith ready for career in aviation

Mary Smith, a graduating Ohio University senior from Cincinnati, is one of the few African-American women in the field of aviation.

She said she was inspired to fly by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot and the first African-American to hold and international pilot's license.

"Ever since the day I learned about Bessie Coleman, I knew I had to fly … I was inspired by her legacy and her ability to overcome obstacles in pursuit of her dreams," Smith said.
Smith's success could not have been achieved without her determination to overcome adversity. 

"When people see me walking through the airport with my uniform on or when they see me exit an airplane, many assume I am a flight attendant," Smith said. "They never assume that I could be the person actually flying the plane, but this just empowers me to work harder and to be better."   

Smith earned her pilot's license more than a year ago from Sporty's Academy, a flight school in Cincinnati. She utilizes this license as the only female member of the Brown Condors, an all- black flying club in Cincinnati.

"There are about 4,000 African-American pilots in America and of those 4,000 only about 400 are women," said Smith, who is a Templeton Scholar who will graduate a year early in June. 

During her time at OHIO, Smith has been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. She has been a member of Women in Aviation and Alpha Eta Rho (a professional aviation fraternity) for three years and is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Kappa
Phi honor societies. She has interned with Continental Airlines in Cleveland and belongs to the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and to the Bessie Coleman Foundation. 

In addition to pursuing professional goals, Smith gives back to OHIO as a peer mentor for first year students through the Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention's LINKS program.

"Mary is the type student that has been an inspiration during her time with the Department of Aviation," said B.J. Galloway, chair of the Department of Aviation. "Mary is a very positive and proactive person who takes any situation presented to her as an opportunity to show leadership."

Smith helps future pilots achieve their dreams of flight as an instructor at the Aviation Career Education Academy where she teaches students ages 14 to 18 the basic principles of aviation. Smith has instructed at ACE academies in Jacksonville, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C., and Cleveland. Smith is also an instructor at the Solo Flight Academy in Dover, Del., which serves students ages 16 to 19.

In addition to helping students at OHIO and around the U.S., Smith serves as a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol. The organization provides aerial photography for the U.S. government and can be dispatched in times of natural disaster to do search and rescue missions.  

Smith will attend graduate school next year at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she will pursue her career goal of becoming an aviation consultant.