Robert Holmes: A Dream of Flying Comes True

1 Sep
Robert Holmes - African American airline pilot

Robert Holmes - African American airline pilot

Robert Holmes, a 28-year-old airline captain, has been a pilot for almost four years. His fascination with airports, airlines and airplanes began when he was a little boy. His parents noticed his interest in aviation, and supported him in his dream of becoming a pilot. Today, he is one of very few African American commercial airline pilots.

He almost let his dream fly away. At age 13, a pastor in East Orange, New Jersey took a group of kids to the Aviation Enrichment Camp (ACE), a program sponsored by the Organization of Black Airline Pilots designed to expose minorities and women to aviation. He almost didn’t go, but his parents talked him into it. What could have been a missed opportunity became “a defining moment in my career,” says Robert. This trip exposed him to the beginning steps necessary to becoming a pilot. Not only did he get a chance to sit in a cockpit and work the controls of an airplane, he met people who were role models.

The United Day in Chicago was another important program for Robert. United Airlines donated one of its Boeing 737s to take junior and senior high school students from O’Hare Airport to Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale to show minorities and women the aviation facility at Carbondale. After this trip, he was set on SIU. He applied and got in.

Armed with his pilot licenses and Bachelors Degree from SIU, his dream was temporarily delayed because he did not have the minimum hours required for flying time. To obtain the hours needed, he had two options: to pay for training or to become a flight instructor. Because pilot training is expensive, he spent a year-and-a-half teaching n Hartford, Connecticut. In addition to fulfilling his much needed requirements, he got paid to teach what he had just learned and learned more about himself in the process. His career took off from there.

What are some of the rewards of being a pilot? He doesn’t take his work home with him; he flies for free in the United States and low cost in other countries; and he’s “the boss.”

Although Robert is living his dream, he warns that being a pilot is “not for anyone interested in instant gratification. You have to put a lot of time into it…a lot of studying.” Persistence and desire are the two things that can make difference between wanting to be a pilot and actually becoming one.

Robert shares the following advice for youngsters considering a career as an airline pilot:
• Identify what you have an interest in and what you want to do.
• Find a mentor.
• Check out the websites of OBAP and other airline associations.
• Talk to people at local airports or introduce yourself to pilots when you get on planes.
• Read books about your career interests.
• Play Microsoft Flight Simulator or similar programs.
• Don’t be afraid to stand out and take chances. Expose yourself to as many different opportunities as possible.

Editor’s Note: I would like to thank Robert for taking the time to share his story with As NOT Seen on TV. I would also like to thank the leaders of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP) for assisting with this story.

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7 Responses to “Robert Holmes: A Dream of Flying Comes True”

  1. Kerry Muller September 23, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

    Robert was my flight instructor back in 2004 in Windham, CT while I was getting current. He helped me ferry a new-to-me Beech Sundowner from Oklahoma City back to Connecticut. Don’t think I’ve ever met a more focused, mature 25 year old. Good luck Robert… hope we meet again.

    • Marcie September 24, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

      Thanks for stopping through. Please share Robert’s story with other pilots.

  2. Natalie September 30, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Awesome story! It’s inspiring to see what you can accomplish if you stay focused, determined, and work hard. Congrats Robert.

    • Marcie October 2, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by. Can you share Robert’s story with other young men?

  3. Siabhon September 30, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    What an inspirational article. You should be very proud of your accomplishments. I will definitely be sharing this article with my little brother! 🙂

    • Marcie October 2, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

      Please do share with your little brother. Ask him to share with his friends.

  4. Jabari Talib October 5, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    Congratulations brother

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