Women’s History Month | Two pilots’ inspiring journeys to Delta
Two history-makers are among the ranks of Delta’s talented pilot base: Aluel Bol and Khady Ndiaye, the first women to become commercial pilots in their respective homelands of South Sudan and Senegal.
Bol, now a 737 captain for Delta, and Ndiaye, a 757/767 first officer, hope to inspire the next generation of women who aspire to take the flight deck. Bol earned her Delta pilot wings in 2018, and Ndiaye earned hers in 2022.
According to Sisters of the Skies, a professional membership organization for Black women who are pilots, there are fewer than 200 Black women pilots nationwide, fewer than 1% percent of all U.S. pilots.
CAPT. ALUEL BOL
Bol has been fascinated with aviation since her childhood. Bol grew up in Sudan, in territory that is now part of the independent South Sudan, and now identifies as South Sudanese. Her family fled the country as refugees in 1989, and Bol found herself captivated by the sights and sounds of the airport.
“I remember asking my father what that was, pointing at the plane,” Bol recalled. “He then proceeded to tell me it was an airplane, and I remember asking him to buy me one. He just laughed and said, ‘One day, you can fly one.’”
Bol’s fascination grew when she boarded a plane again in 1992. Bol’s fascination grew when she boarded a plane again in 1992. Her family landed in Seattle as refugees.
“I remember asking my father, ‘Who drives those things?’ He told me pilots. From then on, if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I told them a pilot. Having no idea what a pilot was, I clung to the word until I became older and understood the true meaning,” Bol said.
After graduating from Florida Memorial University with a degree in aeronautical science and completing her flight training, Bol returned home, following her father, who had returned years earlier to help establish a peace agreement between Sudan and South Sudan.
“There was never a day that went by that he did not remind us of how lucky we were to find safety, health and education in America,” Bol said. “Fueled with that sense of responsibility, when the time came, we knew we would go back, join hands and rebuild our country together.”
Bol went on to work for Feeder Air Lines, where she became the first female pilot in the newly independent South Sudan, eventually moving on to other airlines like Ethiopian and FlyDubai.
“An airplane doesn’t know your gender, your age or your ethnicity,” Bol said. “It does what you tell it to do.”
While Bol holds many different honors, these highlight for her that inequitable systems have made her accomplishments too rare.
“What I enjoy the most is when young people approach me in the airport to ask questions, take pictures or tell me about their desire to fly,” Bol said. “Visibility is very important. Having someone that looks like you or someone that you can relate to makes the goal seem more attainable.”
Now, as a Delta captain, Bol is grateful to be living her dream and is determined to inspire others to pursue their own.
“In 2019, I flew and landed in Seattle, the place where my family came as refugees with no warm clothes and just our suitcases in search of a better life,” said Bol. “When I flew and landed my Delta jet in Sea-Tac, I felt I completed all I sought out to do. I fulfilled my parents’ hopes and dreams. I am forever grateful.”
When working a flight, Bol said she sets a positive example and creates open communication between the flight attendants and pilots, Whenever children are on the flight, Bol loves to bring them into the flight deck, put on a hat and get some wings.
“That’s the Delta Difference. Excellence in everything that we do,” Bol said.
FIRST OFFICER KHADY NDIAYE
Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Ndiaye was the first in her family to graduate high school and one of the top students in her district. Her childhood consisted of numerous competitions in science, language and math. Everyone thought she would become a doctor or an engineer, but her interest was always in aviation.
“I wanted to either be a pilot or an airplane mechanic. I was so fascinated with airplanes that I used to go to the terrace above our house to do my homework and watch planes fly overhead on their approach to the local airport,” Ndiaye said.
When Ndiaye set out to accomplish her goal, she found there were no aviation programs in Senegal. Ndiaye came to the U.S., learned English, got a degree in aviation management and worked at the airport for two years before earning her pilot certificates. Ndiaye built her hours as a flight instructor before being hired at ExpressJet Airlines. Unfortunately, she was furloughed due to the pandemic but landed a role as first officer at Horizon Air before recently getting hired at Delta in December 2022.
“When I moved to the U.S. for school, my first flight was on Delta. Everyone was kind, helpful and professional. I remember thinking, I would love to one day work with a group of people like this,” Ndiaye said.
Ndiaye makes it her responsibility to mentor women who are interested in aviation careers. She works with local nonprofit organizations and STEM programs to encourage girls to stay in school and strive for careers outside of typical gender roles.
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to accomplish my dreams, and in return motivate others to follow theirs,” Ndiaye said.
Images: © Delta
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