On December 14, St. Lucia celebrated the arrival of her native son, Captain Neil Justin. But it wasn’t just any arrival. As noted by the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, Justin received a red carpet welcome after landing JetBlue flight 881.
What gave it an extra dose of sentimental value, was that it was his first landing as a captain. Before that, he was a pilot “for 20 years, and was promoted to captain this summer.” He has worked for JetBlue for eight years and counting.
The plane departed John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and arrived to much fanfare at Hewanorra International, the largest of St. Lucia’s airports.
His Career Was Written In The Stars
Beaming with pride, Justin’s wife and parents accompanied him on his maiden flight.
His love of all things aviation started as a child. No matter where he was or what he was doing, he would always pause to look up when a plane was overhead.
“This has been a dream come true,” Justin said during a press conference. “I knew I wanted to fly and be an airline pilot. I’ve done it before as a first officer, but to do it as a captain is a big deal for me.”
Young Eyes Were On Him
Also present were two children dressed as a pilot and flight attendant.
Shyly, they presented Justin with a commemorative plaque. His parents were also given gifts.
Dr. Ernest Hilaire, who has been part of St. Lucia’s Cabinet of Ministers since August 2021, expressed respect for the “young man who had a dream on a small island.”
“You too can dream, work hard and reach the pinnacle of whatever career you choose,” Dr. Hilaire told the audience. “For me, this is not about tourism. It’s about a young St. Lucian who had a dream, worked hard and achieved it.”
What's Next For Justin?
Justin takes pride in being involved with the community.
According to the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, “he was not only celebrated for his role as a captain, but for the philanthropic work that he does in Saint Lucia with the National Youth Council.”
To that end, Justin hopes to “spend more time working with young minds, and inspire them to follow their dreams.”
There's Been A Push For More Black Pilots
As a Black man, Justin joins a pool of pilots that is quite small. There’s been a push in recent years to get more people of color behind plane controls.
As reported by Travel Noire last August, major carriers like Delta have partnered with HBCUs “to train the next generation of Black pilots.”
Hampton University “became the first HBCU to join Delta’s Propel Collegiate Pilot Career Path program, in hopes of addressing the pilot shortage and diversity problem in the aviation industry.”