SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah is marking Black History Month by announcing its first African American female pilot.
32-year-old Lt.Thessa Washington tells us she “never thought she would be first in anything” but is honored that others may see her as a role model.
She says in many ways she did not see the military or being a pilot as options for her when she was younger.
“So when I found out I could do the military and school I did it and then when I found out I could be a pilot I tried it and here I am,” said Lt. Washington.
She has spent two years in training and is now co-piloting flights on the C-130 often used to fly cargo or supplies. (During the Puerto Rico earthquake the Wing flew dozens of missions taking supplies to the devastated island.)
Washington is actually the first woman in Georgia trained to fly the C-130. “It’s amazing. it’s very fun to me it’s the first time you do it it’s a little intimidating especially for someone my height,” she said.
What she may lack in stature, Washington seems to make up for in ambition. When she enlisted back in 2009 she actually repaired parts on the C-130.
“I was a sheet metal maintainer so all the things in this place like this frame – if it was broken roke I would replace it,” she told us. “Now things have come full circle. I started off literally under here working on things. I fixed chairs before and now I’ll be sitting in them.”
Washington says she never thought she’d be a role model to anyone but her family and maybe her young cousins. “But outside of the family, I did not imagine that other people would want to know my story or want to talk to me or take a picture of me or things like that.
I never imagined that at all,” she said.
Washington does have more training as an aircraft commander but says she’s here to stay. “So I plan on being here until they tell me that I’m too old or I get cataracts,” she said.