ONLY IN THE AJC First black woman set to de­ploy for Ge­or­gia Air Na­tional Guard

Pilot spe­cial­izes in sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO - By Raisa Haber­sham raisa.haber­[email protected]

For Lt. An­drea Lewis, fly­ing has al­ways been her dream.

Af­ter grow­ing up in Stone Moun­tain, Lewis had long wanted to be a flight at­ten­dant like her mother, hop­ing to travel the world.

But she also had dreams of be­ing a pilot, like her father. When she found a list­ing for a flight at­ten- dant with the Air Force Re­serves, she ap­plied, think­ing it could com­bine both her in­ter­ests.

“At first I was a lit­tle hes­i­tant, but (my dad) en­cour­aged me and it was a great fit,” Lewis told The At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion in a phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day.

Now Lewis is ready to be­come the first black woman to de­ploy as part of the Ge­or­gia Air Na­tional Guard. De­tails on Lewis’ de­ploy­ment were not re­leased as they are con­fi­den­tial.

A grad­u­ate of Tucker High School and later a Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia grad­u­ate, Lewis comes from a fam­ily of avi­a­tors. Her father served 14 years in the Marine Corps as a pilot. He would then go on to work for 22 years with Amer­i­can Air­lines. Lewis’ mom is a flight at­ten­dant with Delta Air Lines.

Fol­low­ing in her mother’s foot­steps, Lewis be­came a flight at­ten­dant with the Air Force Re­serves in 2010, mak­ing her only the sec­ond civil­ian hired as an Air Force flight at­ten­dant. The po­si­tion is usu­ally re­served for air­men al­ready in ser­vice with proven ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but Lewis says a de­gree in French and time spent study­ing abroad gave her an edge.

The move was an emo­tional one, com­ing af­ter the death of her father. Lewis said her co­work­ers and the Air Force Re­serves en­cour­aged her to con­tinue to pur­sue her pi­lot­ing dreams.

“Through them, I was able to start my ini­tial in­volve­ment with fly­ing air­planes,” she said.

In 2011, Lewis was hired as a flight at­ten­dant for Delta Air Lines. Her sched­ule as a tra­di­tional guards­man al­lowed her the flex­i­bil­ity to con­tinue purs­ing that dream, too.

“I could fly as I wanted, which was re­ally nice, and Delta has been very sup­port­ive,” she said.

Lewis was ac­cepted into the Ge­or­gia Air Na­tional Guard in 2014 and hired to be a pilot for the E-8C Joint STARS air­craft, a Boe­ing 707 frame out­fit­ted with a radar and sur­veil­lance sys­tems to take pic­tures of the ground and feed the im­ages back to com­mand cen­ters.

While Lewis spe­cial­izes in sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance, she had not been in any­thing mil­i­tary-re­lated in high school or col­lege, so “this is a very dif­fer­ent path for me,” she said. Lewis is cur­rently on mil­i­tary leave from Delta as she pre­pares for de­ploy­ment.

Lewis is in a rare class. There are more than 42,600 com­mer­cial and non­com­mer­cial women pi­lots, ac­cord­ing to Women in Avi­a­tion In­ter­na­tional, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on ad­vanc­ing women in avi­a­tion. There are 609,306 pi­lots to­tal.

Lewis stands along­side the first black woman to earn a pilot’s li­cense, Bessie Cole­man, and Delta’s first black fe­male cap­tain, Stephanie John­son. Both are pi­lots she’s ad­mired as his­tory mak­ers — and she doesn’t take be­ing in their com­pany lightly.

“I’m just hon­ored to be thought of in the same light,” Lewis said. “They were def­i­nitely trail­blaz­ers for me. So, I hope (peo­ple) see me in the same light.”

An­drea Lewis was ac­cepted into the Ge­or­gia Air Na­tional Guard in 2014 and hired to be a pilot.

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