BLACK HISTORY MONTH DAY: 21
Black Owned Airlines
While African American pilots continued to pound on the doors of commercial aviation, there were Black entrepreneurs that started up and own their own company providing Airline, Air Charter service and flight schools.
Wheeler Flying Service: Warren Wheeler opened a flying service in North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham Airport in 1969. At the time a modest business, it consisted of one airplane and one employee Wheeler. In the mid-’70s the Flying Service had grown into a prosperous company with 11 air- craft, 31 employees and total sales approaching $1 million. The airplanes were Cessna 402 and Aerostars. It flew commuters to six East Coast cities, including Charlotte and Norfolk, Virginia.
One of Wheeler’s pilots went on to become the first Black female pilot (Jill Brown) for a major commercial airline. Wheeler’s interest in flying began at the age of 15, By 18 he had a private pilot’s license. His first commercial job was with Piedmont Airlines as a flight officer. That lasted only three years when he left to start his own aviation company. Wheeler financed the venture through the Small Business Administration and the Coastal Plains Regional Commission.