Historically, aviation has lacked diversity, offering few opportunities for people of color or women to see themselves as pilots, technicians or airline management, lacking role models who look like them in those positions.
At Republic Airways, we’re committed to changing that in all areas of our workforce development. We became the first airline in the U.S. to make that clear in our mission with LIFT Academy in 2018—to make aviation accessible and attainable for all. Three years in, and we’re seeing that difference being made. Our Republic Cadet, Ambassador and Apprenticeship programs, too, make airline careers more accessible by providing pathways to future pilots, technicians and dispatchers.
Last month, we welcomed a group of our RJet Cadet Ambassadors to Indianapolis where they met other Ambassadors from flight programs across the country and had a chance to see their future as an airline pilot up close.
When four new RJet Cadet Ambassadors, Cobe Green, Ijahman Morgan, Jermaine Morris and Kelvin Nyamadi, took a photo together and shared it to social media, they didn’t expect it to go viral. But their feel-good post spread quickly– it was re-shared by many across Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Twitter and other platforms along with the quote, “These four young black pilots didn’t know each other. They met for the first time this week at the headquarters of Republic Airways. One pilot said to the other three, “You know we are not supposed to be sitting here.” They all began to get emotional. This is a powerful picture to me.”
As we celebrate Black History Month, these two pictures and the work these pilots have put into their flight lessons to get where they are today represent the direction we’re grateful to be heading as a Company and an industry – where any child believes they can chase their dream of flying because they see themselves doing it through who is represented in the cockpit or hangar.
We talked to our new Ambassadors–Cobe, Ijahman, Jermaine and Kelvin–about their journeys into aviation, their experience with Republic and the RJet Cadet and Ambassador programs and advice they would give to future aviators.
Question: Aviation has historically been an industry that has not been very diverse. What inspired you to begin your aviation journey?
Cobe: I don’t think I was inspired by anything specific to become a pilot. I didn’t know of anyone who was a pilot. But when I traveled around the Memphis airport for school, I always loved to see the big planes land. I always found myself wondering if I was capable of the same thing those pilots were doing.
Ijah: I think it all started when I was still living in Ghana. At 3 years old, the first toy I can remember receiving was a jetairplane Lego set. My fascination with the metallic birds that flew over my village every day coupled with my excitement when I got to see one up close confirmed for me that flying was something I was born to do.
Jermaine: The aviation industry historically not being diverse is honestly what inspired me to begin my aviation journey. It was a dream of mine to become a pilot. Seeing other people of color, men and women, who are already in the aviation industry inspire me every day.
Kelvin: Growing up in a village in Ghana, I’d never heard of or seen a plane, at least not until I was 10 years old. My uncle came to visit Ghana from London. He was staying in Accra and my mom took my siblings and I there to visit him. On our way, we drove past Kotoka International Airport; I remember sitting in our vehicle, and I heard this loud roaring sound from the sky. I was puzzled and I didn’t know what to make of it.
I still vividly remember my excitement as those gigantic engines and landing gear passed over the vehicle and touched down on the runway. I was captivated, in love, amazed, inspired and excited. I kept jumping in the back of the car to get a closer look at that beautiful machine. I wanted to know how it flew so beautifully. I was told it was because of the pilot flying it. That was the day I knew what I wanted to do. The seed and my passion for aviation were sowed. When I came to this country at the age of 13, I was told by various people to pursue a different path because, “You’re black, and I’ve never seen a black pilot before.” Those words hurt, but I always held onto the belief that I could make a difference and defy my own family’s attempts to sway me from aviation. I am here today as a walking testimony that it is possible, and to the 10-year-old me, THANK YOU! Thank you for falling in love with aviation and giving me a purpose and passion to pursue my career!
What does being a part of the RJet Cadet Program and having a job after graduation mean for you?
Cobe: It was a blessing to become an RJet Cadet at Republic Airways. Historically, I have not felt that I was treated like some of my peers were, but Republic was amazing during the interview process. I love the diversity at Republic and the quality of life they offer. The opportunity to become a First Officer at Republic once I complete my degree and time building truly gives me an extra incentive to finish school, especially during the tough times in training. The security I feel, knowing that I have a position waiting for me after graduation, gives me peace and is another reason why I am so happy to be headed to Republic.
Ijah: Becoming a Republic pilot after graduation means everything to me. It means that the risk I took with my mother to immigrate to America for better opportunities was worth it. It means that I was able to come to this country with hopes and dreams and will ultimately fulfill my greatest passion. It means that I will be able to give back to all my family members who continue to support and believe in me.
Jermaine: Having a job at Republic Airways after college is very important to me. For one, it means my hard work is paying off and it’s not going unnoticed. Secondly, it shows that Republic believes in me. Those things don’t just mean a lot to me, they also inspire me to keep going.
Kelvin: The job opportunity I have to be a First Officer at Republic Airways after graduation and time building truly means the world to me – my dreams have been fulfilled. Why? Well, during my first time plane spotting at LaGuardia, while tuned in live to Air Traffic Control, I heard a “BRICKYARD” callsign, instructed to take off. I watched the plane roll onto the runway and take off into the sky – it was beautiful. I did some research and found out “BRICKYARD” was the Republic Airways call sign and thought to myself, “This is the company I will end up working for. I will fly one of those Embraer EJets.” To some extent, you can say it was LOVE at first sight.
What have your experiences as Ambassadors in the RJet Cadet program been like?
Cobe: My experience as an Ambassador in the RJet Cadet Program at Republic has been amazing. This has definitely been one of the best companies that I have had the pleasure to be a part of! I feel like Republic and its Associates and crew members are very helpful and genuinely compassionate. I am looking forward to continuing to have such experiences.
Ijah: Being an Ambassador at Republic has been a blessing! Not only was I able to fall in love with the company as an RJet Cadet, but I am also now able to spread my appreciation and excitement for Republic with my classmates. I truly believe in the professionalism and family culture of Republic Airways, and I feel privileged to be able to speak on that as an Ambassador.
Jermaine: My experiences as an Ambassador in the RJet Cadet Program have all been fun. Being able to visit Republic’s Training Center and meeting Republic employees was a life changing experience for me. Republic says that this is your second family, and in just two days in Indianapolis, I felt how Republic is one big happy family.
Kelvin: My experience as an Ambassador in the RJet Cadet program has been amazing. Republic isn’t just a company where you clock in and out of; it has a family environment. People from different backgrounds and positions come together and draw their strength from their differences. I am proud and quick to share what it feels like to be an Ambassador at Republic Airways to flight students, instructors and family that have questions about the Company. I find that people really connect with how I feel about Republic, too, especially when I share, “You’re walking into a family-orientated environment that wants you and makes you feel welcome.”
What are you looking forward to once you become commercial airline pilots at Republic Airways?
Cobe: Of course, as a pilot I am excited to go to new places and meet new people. Being exposed to different regions of the country is one of the many things I am excitedly anticipating. However, it goes deeper than that for me. As I said earlier, I didn’t know of anyone who was a pilot; this doesn’t run in my family like many of my peers. Being able to do this for my future family and become a role model for someone like me is what matters most. With Republic, I will become someone who breaks barriers in the aviation community.
Ijah: At the beginning of my pilot journey, becoming an airline pilot for me was all about the ability to travel around the world and fly unbelievably sophisticated pieces of machinery. Now, I see the career as an airline pilot as a way to connect with crew members and do what we love amongst good company. This job may take us away from home and loved ones, but to be able to safely get people from place to place in the presence of good company is a privilege.
Jermaine: When I become a commercial airline pilot at Republic, the thing I am looking forward to the most is being able to interact with passengers. As a kid, meeting the pilot at the end of a flight was a highlight for me, so I want to return the favor to other kids.
Kelvin: At Republic, it is a priority to make everyone feel welcomed, comfortable and relaxed; people there really make you feel like you belong. That being said, I think the culture at Republic brings out the best of people, which in my opinion, makes it an ideal work environment. I want to be the best version of myself when flying commercially. My goal to be the best version of myself aligns with Republic’s culture because I know that I’ll be challenged to grow and be the BEST for myself, passengers, crew and Company.
What advice would you give to your younger self or to young people who want to become pilots?
Cobe: There is literally nothing that can hold you back. If you have the perseverance and strength everything is within your grasp.
Ijah: To anyone who wants to become a pilot, remember that this career is not easy, it takes a lot of work to become a professional aviator. However, throughout your journey, never forget the feeling of your first takeoff, first landing and solo. The overwhelming feeling of joy in these moments will help carry you through the tough times and late nights of studying. Always love what you do!
Jermaine: Study hard. There are going to be a lot of challenges to face so be ready. For me it felt easier to tackle the challenges one by one. Also, network, network, network. The more people you know, the more resources you’ll have to better yourself and learn more. You never know who you may meet!
Kelvin: Never let anything keep you from pursuing your dreams. Only you can see your vision, and you need to believe in it before anyone else will believe in you. Don’t let family, friends or relationships discourage you, and most importantly, recognize what makes you happy. Don’t live according to what people want you to do. Start living according to what makes you happy. Be YOU & love yourself.
Welcome aboard, Cobe, Ijah, Jermain and Kelvin. We are grateful to have you as part of our crew and look forward to when you are officially #RepublicReady! See you in the friendly skies!
Are you or someone you know interested in becoming an RJet Cadet? Apply here.