After receiving a PanAm jet toy for Christmas when he was seven, Wade Austin-McDonald fell in love with the aviation industry and grew up to become a pilot. Now at age 65, and with over four decades of flying, Wade retires happily, and his daughter could not be prouder of him. Fiona Austin-McDonald celebrated her father on social media while at the same time wishing him a happy birthday. with a heartfelt message.
She wrote on Instagram late last month, “Happy birthday & happy retirement daddy~44 years serving the skies and flying people with the highest standard of safety~. It has been an honor to fly with you.
“You’ve taught us how to work hard for what we want- passed on so much knowledge to many Caribbean men and women who became great pilots because of trainers like you.
“If it wasn’t for the retirement age, I’m pretty sure you could go for another 15 years but so it is written. Have a great birthday and enjoy your retirement ❤️ Wish you many more years of life, good health and great memories.”
Wade’s love for the industry rubbed off on his family as his daughter and son are both pilots, and his wife is a flight attendant.
Originally from Guyana, Wade dedicated his life to pursuing his dreams. His family, especially his daughter, Fiona, is basking with pride over his achievements.
Fiona and her father work for the same airline and the father-daughter duo have shared a cockpit on several flights including trips from their hometown Antigua to St. Kitts and St. Marteen.
The highlight of such moments for both, was when Wade got the chance to conduct Fiona’s first-line commercial fight training. Wade said he had to keep his composure and mask his excitement so that Fiona could “relax and perform her duties.”
She on the other hand got very emotional especially since it was her first-line commercial flight training, and her father was in charge.
“For me it was epic – I was excited [too] and a bit emotional but masked it very well as we had work to do. But I can’t shake the memory of being really proud of how far we have come as Black people. I was proud of him, proud of myself as a woman and proud of us as a family,” Fiona said.
The gender gaps for many careers are glaring especially in the aviation industry. It is true that times have changed for the better and now many women are filling a lot of spaces that were initially occupied by only men.
Fiona recollected an all-female control flight where remarks from male passengers clearly showed the kind of roles ascribed to women.
“It is perceived that women are a little softer than men, but from what I see both male and female pilots do equally great jobs in any circumstances there is no differentiation you just have to perform with all the zeal and confidence that you have,” Fiona said to a local news outlet.
Fiona said her father played a major role in her career choice but what cemented her decision to become a pilot was seeing a young female Jamaican pilot.
“I met this young female pilot, a Jamaican. I saw her on the ramp, and she was with her male counterparts and the respect she got was just remarkable and that impressed me a great deal.”
In the United States, there are less than 3% Black American commercial pilots, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many Black people have had to endure years of segregation and racism for the present generation to enjoy certain rights and Fiona is optimistic about what the future holds for people of color globally.
She is grateful for Black men like her father who paved the way for other Black pilots and hopes the cycle continues to future generations.