Fiona Austin-McDonald took to social media to wish her father, Wade Austin-McDonald a happy 65th birthday while simultaneously congratulating him on his retirement after 44 years of being a pilot.
A Guyana native who relocated to Antigua, Wade, was first inspired to become a pilot at the age of 7 after receiving a PanAm jet toy for Christmas. Ever since then, he dedicated his life to pursuing a career as a pilot, eventually giving birth to children who would follow in his footsteps, a daughter, Fiona and a son, Antoine.
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Fiona said while her father was a great motivator for becoming a pilot, it was the first time she saw a woman in the cockpit, while working as a flight attendant, that made her pursue becoming one.
“It feels really good to follow in his footsteps but this job is one where you have to create your own path. It is a very dynamic career and all the work is on you. No one else can fly for you, do your checkrides or perform your duties. His story may also be totally different from mine as a woman in aviation,” Fiona told Because Of Them We Can.
The father-daughter duo have been working for the same airline, which gave her father the opportunity to conduct her first-line commercial flight training.
“It was wonderful, I pretended not to be excited as I wanted her to relax and perform her duties,” said Wade.
“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.
Since then, the two have had the opportunity to fly together on a number of trips, including one from their hometown of Antigua to St. Kitts and St. Marteen. Now that he’s retired, Wade hopes to continue in aviation, working as a flight operations inspector.
“I’m just really thankful for those before us who paved the way for him and others to become great pilots and pass it on to others so that the legacy lives on. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for people of colour as we continue to learn and be successful,” said Fiona.