Taking over the skies, one Boeing 767 at a time: Meet Taylor Montgomery
Historically, women make up just six percent of the pilot workforce, a staggeringly uneven statistic for the aviation industry. Female pilots, simply put, are rare.
Enter Taylor Montgomery, who has been making her mark in the air space and aims to inspire other girls and women to do the same.
As a Boeing 767 Captain with Atlas Air who regularly pilots the giant freight aircraft all over the world, Montgomery’s love for aviation started when she was younger.
“I’ve been flying since I can remember,” she said.
Aviation is practically in her blood, with two family members before her having worked in the industry: her father, an air traffic controller in Baton Rouge for 30 years, and her grandfather, a retired Air Force veteran-turned-aviation instructor. Both contributed tremendously to her interest in the industry.
While her first real lesson happened when she was 15, Montgomery has vivid memories of her father taking her out to the airport in the control tower with him and her grandfather allowing her to sit in the back of the plane while he was leading lessons with other students.
After high school, Taylor decided aviation was where she belonged, going on to Louisiana Tech University to earn a B.S. in professional aviation.
But she didn’t stop there.
“I got my commercial single engine there, my commercial multi engine, certified flight instructor, my instrument certified flight instructor and my multi engine instructor license,” she said.
Montgomery’s drive is admirable, graduating in just two-and-a-half years with two four-year degrees.
After college, Montgomery began instructing, which lasted two years until she was able to get her first job with cargo airline Martinaire flying Caravans. Soon after, Taylor joined Ameriflight, then the now-defunct Travel Management Company, and ultimately moved on to Atlas Air in 2016.
Looking back on her time as a pilot thus far, Taylor has many memories and experiences on which to reminisce.
One of her favorites is when her father retired from his position as an air traffic controller. Taylor’s plane was the last he controlled.
“Being the last pilot, he spoke to me on the radio as the last plane he controlled before he retired," Montgomery said. "It was just so memorable.”
Montgomery regards it as one of her most unique experiences as a pilot considering the role her father played on her path to a career in aviation.
Another fond memory being when her now-husband and then-boyfriend, Shawn, proposed to her. The two met at Ameriflight in November 2013 and a relationship blossomed. The pair then moved on to Atlas Air together in 2016. After asking her to choose the destination, Taylor and Shawn flew to Hawaii in a 747 Atlas Air Freighter, just the two of them with the crew. When they landed, he asked to take a picture of her in front of the engine.
“He proposed to me in front of the 747 we had just jump-seated on in Honolulu.”
While it didn’t happen in the air, Montgomery regards it as one of her most special memories.
In addition to being a pilot and wife, Montgomery has a 16-year-old stepdaughter Ava, as well as with four dogs, three chihuahuas and one pug.
Now based out of Northern Kentucky, Montgomery is big on family time and states that being a pilot has given her a flexible schedule.
“Being able to bid [for flights] around the holidays and my stepdaughter’s swim meets in order to be able to attend them is great,” she said.
Montgomery recognizes that while sacrifices must be made when becoming a pilot, the profession has given her the ability to not miss moments that are important to her.
“I love the fact that I break stereotypes,” said Montgomery. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told ‘That’s a big 'ole plane for a little girl.’”
Montgomery loves seeing other female pilots who often regard each other as “unicorns” because it’s “just so rare.”
With an emphasis being placed on the growing number of women entering STEM professions, Montgomery’s advice to other women or girls looking to join the aviation field was simply, “Do it”. It's empowering to be a woman in aviation, she said. There's an almost instantaneous bond when Montgomery meets another female pilot.
One discovery flight is all it takes to know whether aviation is for you, according to Montgomery,.
“If you have the aviation bug," she said, “you’ll know it.”