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Behind the Wings: Blazing the trail for future female aviators

First Officer Mia Hutcherson never saw a pilot who looked like her in the flight deck. She had seen African American flight attendants on her travels and thought that was her only option as an aviation crew member. While working as a flight attendant for Piedmont’s parent company American Airlines, a conversation with a pilot colleague and a discovery flight reignited her passion to fly. She started building her hours, joined Piedmont’s Cadet Program and became a Piedmont First Officer in March 2021.

“I knew I wanted to fly for a very long time, but I never saw a pilot who looked like me and didn’t know where to start or if it was even an option for someone like me,” says Mia. “I was under the impression that to become a pilot you had to have a degree in aviation or have military experience, and I had neither.” In a conversation with a pilot colleague, he shared that he didn’t have an aviation degree nor did he have former military experience and offered her to join him for a discovery flight. She agreed and after that flight, she was hooked.

Originally from Los Angeles, California, Mia obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern California in Healthcare with an emphasis in Operations Management. After obtaining her degree, she moved to Japan where she worked as a corporate planner then relocated with the same company to San Francisco. While traveling for work, Mia found a passion for traveling and decided to explore a career that afforded her the opportunity to travel more.

Mia flight training

She joined US Airways as a flight attendant and fell in love with the job. When US Airways merged with American, she had an opportunity to work as a merger training specialist. While she was teaching flight attendants during the day, she was building time at night.

During her career as a flight attendant, she took several leaves of absence, which provided Mia the opportunity to build her hours quicker as long as she agreed to work high travel periods. While she built her hours, Mia flew Cessna Caravans for Southern Airways Express. During this time, she was awarded a $5,000 scholarship for flight training from the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP). After she obtained 500 hours of flight time, Mia joined Piedmont’s Cadet Program.

“American had been so supportive and accommodating of my journey that when it came to picking a regional airline to begin my career, I wanted to start with an American Airlines wholly-owned carrier,” says Mia. She had many friends who flew for Piedmont and heard good things about Piedmont’s training and culture.

Although COVID made the Cadet experience completely virtual, she really enjoyed being part of a community and getting to know people who would be in her future first officer class. She resigned from her position as a flight attendant the day before beginning her training with Piedmont and is proud to be part of the first post-pandemic pilot class. “It felt amazing to start training,” Mia says proudly. “Beginning training was a positive sign for future airline growth in an uncertain time.”

As a female pilot, Mia is an advocate for women in aviation and encourages women of color to join her in the flight deck. “People see me and do a double take,” Mia shares. “They stop me and ask questions about my career and how I accomplished it and I’m happy to share my story. I was inspired by other African American female pilots and I want to be an inspiration to others.”

Outside of the flight deck, Mia speaks to youth groups about aviation at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Los Angeles and received a Meritorious Woman Award from the NAACP in 2018. She also speaks on Career Days at inner city schools in her hometown and has spoken to the San Francisco Women in Aviation chapter. She is a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and Women in Aviation (WAI).

“There aren’t many female pilots let alone women pilots of color,” shares Mia, “It’s humbling when I am asked about my accomplishments, it’s what keeps me going. I’m proud to be someone that has the opportunity to share the world of aviation and to imprint young minds.”

Behind the Wings is a Piedmont feature that highlights the accomplishments of the aviation professionals who make us Piedmont Proud inside and outside the airport. In honor of Black History Month, Piedmont is proud to recognize our team members and their contributions to the success of the airline and making a difference in their communities.