My name is Dawn Cook and I am a First Officer for Delta Air Lines. Currently in my fifth year with Delta, I fly the Boeing 737 (800/700). I am based in the New York area, so I fly out of JFK, LaGuardia and Newark a lot. In addition to my usual routes to the west coast (LAX, SEA, etc.), I have also been flying to South America a lot recently. What I love about flying and working for Delta is that every flight and every day is different, meaning new opportunities and challenges to do my best. Regardless of the number of times I have taken off or landed at a certain airport, this job requires that I am constantly working for perfection, never allowing my professionalism to take a back seat.
I grew up inWoodbridge,VA, a suburb just outside ofWashington,D.C.and come from a fabulous, loving and supportive family. My parents were very closely linked to my career choice. My mother was a flight attendant for USAir for 30 years, so I spent much of my childhood traveling with my siblings and learning all about the country and the world first hand. I wanted to be a flight attendant just like my mother. However, she told me I needed to be in the cockpit, because that’s where the real fun was. And that, as they say, was that. With the support of my family, I found that it’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know that you can’t.
My mom was my biggest influence and my biggest fan; she was just amazing. She had this great job that took her all over the world, and at the same time was always there for all of us. She was Superwoman. She opened my eyes to aviation and, more importantly, the world. Throughout my research, she actively helped me find a flight school, an instructor and a good college to make my dream a reality. As a result of her encouragement and support, I was even able to start college with a Private Pilot certificate, a year ahead of most of my classmates.
I choose Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree, as well the rest of my flight ratings (Instrument, Commercial, Multi, Certified Flight Instructor, Instrument Instructor and Multi-Engine Instructor) in four years. I faced the typical challenges of any female trying to make it in what is still deemed “a man’s world”, feeling I needed to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good. Though no one comes out and says they are judging you because you are female, actions speak louder than words. Knowing the expectations I would face, I overcame the challenges by giving 110%, 100% of the time. I knew I had to work harder than my peers. As an African-American female, I was a double minority and for four years I was the only girl in many of my courses. Going above and beyond became my ‘normal’; which prepared me not only for college, but also for a tough career ahead.
When people told me “no” or doubted my hopes and dreams, it only fueled my fire, reinforcing my commitment to becoming a pilot; not just to prove them wrong, but to show them they had no effect on me. During this time, my mother and my siblings had a huge impact in helping me stay strong. On those occasions when I did see that rare female pilot in a uniform, it helped kept everything in perspective. I realized those women had it so much harder than I did, and they had opened the door for me. The least I could do was to work hard and open a door for others.
In 2004, I was working at a regional airline and decided I needed to make things happen to make my dreams come true. I applied (for the third time) for both the Delta Boeing 737 Type Rating and a job at Spirit Airlines. I hoped that, with any luck, I would get one of the opportunities and start taking a step in the right direction for my career. To my surprise, not only did I get the job at Spirit Airlines, I also won the Delta Type Rating! It was such an amazing feeling to know that my hard work was finally paying off. I had already taken the job at Spirit when I was told I had won the scholarship from Delta. Even though I was working for a competitor, Delta was true to its word and worked with me and my training/work schedule at Spirit. They treated me like a member of the Delta family from the start. Everyone I came across was supportive and encouraging, with regards to furthering my career and becoming a Delta pilot. Once Delta began the hiring process, I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted and officially join the Delta team as a pilot.
The experience I have had with Delta Air Lines has been positive from the start; and while I have been an employee for more than five years, it has yet to feel like work. When you are here, you really are part of huge family. And despite what the future holds, I know that I will have the support and help of this new family, Delta Air Lines.