Woman of Jamaican Descent Becomes First Black Female Pilot to Fly Boeing 777 for Air Canada

Jamaican Canadian Zoey Williams, 27, is the first Black female pilot at Air Canada to fly a Boeing 777 aircraft. She had already made aviation history by being the first Black female pilot to join the Air Canada team. Her outstanding career as a pilot was inspired by her father, Orrett Williams, a native of Jamaica who is  a Boeing 777 Captain with Air Canada.

A childhood marked by flights

Williams was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, but spent her childhood years experiencing many airplane flights and living overseas in Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. She began her career when she was 15, and just a year later, she earned her first license to fly. Williams to an interviewer from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), her alma mater, that she “grew up on planes.” At one point, her pilot father suggested that the teenager take an introductory flight as the first step to becoming a pilot herself. Williams accepted the challenge, choosing to fly in a Cessna. However, all of her previous flight experiences had been on commercial flights and at the airline level. She was not prepared for the small-plane experience and confessed she had been terrified. When the flight ended, she went home to announce, “I’ll never do that again.”

Continuing her aviation journey

Despite her unfortunate experience in the Cessna, Willimas wanted to continue following her interest in aviation after high school. She pursued an Advanced Diploma in Aviation Flight Management and a BA in Aeronautics and Aviation Management at ERAU because of her misgivings about becoming a pilot. While in school, she overcame her fear of flying, joined a flight training program, and at age 19, she became a certified flight instructor. Williams has served in many roles in the aviation industry since then, including an appointment as First Officer for Sky Regional Airlines, transitioning to Air Transat.

Confronting challenges

Along the way, she faced systemic challenges because there were so few women of color in aviation. During difficult times, Williams remembered her father’s words, “You have a responsibility to be a role model for other young girls like you. Hold your head high and encourage others to follow their dreams.” She went on to earn an MBA in Aviation and international Business from ERAU, started a short-term rental enterprise, and flew a Boeing 737 aircraft for Flair Airlines. She ultimately landed at Air Canada, achieving a significant milestone by operating flights with her father on 777s, appearing in videos for Air Canada, and joining Elevate Aviation 2023 Women of Inspire. She was named one of the Top 20 Under 40 by Wings magazine as well.

Beyond aviation

 In addition to her aviation accomplishments, Williams has continued to follow her passion for music and performs as a singer with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. She is also authoring a book entitled, “Go Where You Belong,” to motivate young people to pursue their dreams. “If you have a burning desire to do something, don’t bury it,” Williams told the ERAU interviewer, adding “Keep your focus, build your networks, share your goals, and show your passion in everything you do. That’s how you can end up doing things you love day in and day out.”

Photos – Zoey Williams