Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Dominique Leonard-Curry
Black Pilots Blazing The Trail: First Officer Dominique Leonard-Curry
San Diego native Dominique Leonard-Curry is among the one percent of Black pilots in America paving the way for the next generation. We introduced you to three other Black women, also among that number, piloting planes to show that we are out here.
Journey into aviation
As a little Black girl growing up in Jefferson, Indiana (near Louisville, Kentucky), Dominique never showed interest in planes or even flying.
It wasn’t until she was introduced to aviation by a family friend who happened to be a pilot for UPS. He invited her to attend a summer camp presented by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) just across the bridge in Louisville.
She attended the free camp and during one of the breakout sessions she learned that there was so much more to aviation than just flying. This alone helped her to gain a deeper respect for the career field. The highlight of the camp was being presented the award for ‘best cadet.’ This recognition gave Dominique the chance to experience a free discovery flight at any time that she was ready.
It took her over a year to take advantage of that free flight, but when she did it changed her outlook. That is when she knew that being a pilot was what she wanted to do.
Luckily, the high school that she attended offered a program for student’s to obtain their private pilot license.
“During my Junior year I would attend my pilot training classes in the morning in Louisville and then drive back over to Jeffersonville in the afternoon for my regular high school classes,” Dominque told Travel Noire.
The following year, she began actual flight training. She received her private pilot license one week before graduating with her high school diploma.
From there, she went on to attend Purdue University on scholarship. At the time she was the only Black female in her class.
“I had to be a self-advocate, find my own resources, and adjust socially to my new life. But I made it.”
Things took a pause when Dominique got married and began her family. After several years away, and even working in the medical field for a while, she made the decision to go back to Purdue to obtain her flight instructor license.
“I missed flying so much. When I was working in the medical field, I became so depressed, especially seeing planes flying around our building. My boss thought I was crazy for leaving my salary job to go back to flight school, but he understood.”
Once she was able to do this, the rest was history. Her family bounced around a bit going to South Florida and then ending up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Dominique along with her husband and three daughters are currently based there. She now works for American Eagle PSA airline in the area.
On being a trailblazer
“It means everything for me because people are blown away at seeing a Black female pilot,” Dominique says.
She is now making sure that she also helps to pave the way and bring up the next generation of pilots coming up. Dominique serves as a mentor and is heavily involved in the Sisters of the Skies organization. She speaks at schools and youth events to show that this career is possible.
“When I was coming up, seeing other women like me do it inspired me to keep going.”
Advice to those wanting to be pilots
“Never give up, obstacles are there to make you stronger. Use them as a stepping stool to do anything.”
Dominique is so grateful to be in the position she is in. She credits her determination and perseverance even in the face of adversity and discrimination.
She wanted to leave aspiring aviation professionals with these two nuggets that have been near and dear to her: “A setback is only a setup for a comeback. If you tell me I can’t, I’ll show you that I can.”