Many African Americans have made strides in the world of aeronautics, from Dr. Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first black female astraunaut in space, to the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. Here we take a look at the seven black power players in the boardrooms and behind the business of the aeronautics industry. — Janell Hazelwood
THELLA F. BOWENS, CEO, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Appointed president and CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority in March 2003, Bowens also serves as the owner and operator of San Diego International Airport. The industry veteran, who as more than 30 years of experience in public administration, is responsible for management oversight of the Authority, its $145 million annual operating budget, an approximately $335 million capital budget and about 380 employees. She also oversees the Authority’s $1.2 billion Terminal Development Program. Before her post in San Diego, she was San Diego Unified Port District’s senior director of aviation and also served as the deputy Executive Director of Kansas City’s Aviation Department which included Kansas City International Airport and the city’s two general aviation airports.
CHARLES F. BOLDEN JR., NASA Administrator:Nominated by President Barack Obama, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., began his duties as the 12th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in July 2009. In his post, he leads the NASA team and manages its resources to advance the agency’s missions and goals. Bolden has a 34-year military career with the Marines, including 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office, making 4 space trips between 1986 and 1994, and serving as commander of two of the missions. Before joining NASA, he was also CEO of JACKandPANTHER L.L.C., a firm providing leadership, military and aerospace consulting, and motivational speaking.
JAMAIL LARKINS, CEO, Ascension Aircraft: This enterprising BE Nexter, who began flying in his teens, started Ascension Aircraft in 2006 with just $5,000 in startup capital. His company, which as the 2010 BE Next Company of the Year, offers services such as aircraft leasing, management, acquisition, and brokering, and it brought in more than $8 million last year. The businessman, now in his 20s, started his first company, Larkins Enterprises Inc., an advertising and aviation sales company, at 15.
DR. ROBERT L. SATCHER JR., NASA Astronaut: The only African American selected among 14 for NASA’s space core program in 2004, Satcher made major strides in aeronautics, completing three space walks as part of the Atlantis mission. The physician and chemical engineer spent over 259 hours in space and continued his career in education and research with posts at top hospitals and schools including with posts at The Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and The Biomedical Engineering Department at Northeastern University School of Engineering.
SIZA MZIMELA, CEO, South African Airways: This aviation powerhouse became South African Airway’s first female CEO early last year, and has more than 15 years in the aviation industry. She joined South African Airways in January 1996 as a research analyst, later becoming manager of market development and then senior manager of alliances, where she handled negotiations with major international airlines in the Middle East & Africa and brokered partnerships with Israel Airlines and Ghana Airways. She’s held top positions at companies including the Standard Bank of South and Total South Africa.
JAMES A. BELL, President, CEO, Executive Vice President, The Boeing Co.: This aviation power player has a long history with Boeing, the world’s largest aviation company, having served as CFO, senior vice president of finance and corporate controller, and vice president of contracts and pricing for Boeing Space and Communications. Bell’s veteran experience with the company includes overseeing business performance and strategic growth initiatives, as well as being responsible for the overall financial management of the company, its financial reporting and transparency, and other corporate functions. Also, Bell oversees two vital Boeing businesses, Boeing Capital Corp. and Boeing Shared Services.
Wanda Denson-Low, Senior Vice President of Internal Governance, Boeing Appointed to her current position in May 2007, this industry veteran got her start as a stellar patent attorney at Union Carbide Corp. Her 20 years of experience also includes a post at the Hughes Aircraft Co., where she was the first female minority chief patent counsel of a Fortune 500 company. In her current post, she oversees internal governance policies and plans and has management oversight for corporate audit, ethics and business conduct, and global trade controls. She also oversees other related regulatory and compliance issues.