Americus native Troy D. Jones of United Airlines speaks at SGTC Black History program

Published 8:26 am Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Americus native and United Airlines First Officer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Troy D. Jones spoke about the “celebration of wins” that he and others have experienced when he spoke at the South Georgia Technical College Black History Program in the John M. Pope Industrial Technology Center on the Americus campus recently.

   A large crowd of faculty, staff, students, and administrators in addition to elected officials and community members were on hand to hear Jones talk about his experiences as a pilot of one of the largest airlines in the United States.  Two groups from the Sumter County School System also attended.

   “It is a relatively newness of black people in stripes (pilots) for major airlines,” said Jones, who is the second African American from Americus to become a major airlines pilot for United Airlines.  The first is Retired Captain Johnny Jones (no relation) from Americus who attended the program and served as a mentor to other black pilots.

    “I am very thankful for my family and friends and others who have always poured positivity into me,” said Jones.  “Leaning into good or celebrating wins is what drove me.  I knew I wanted to be successful and my family and others who saw possibilities in me helped me to persevere.  My uncle called it ‘stick-to-itiveness’.

     “I have been surrounded by many good people who have all done good things on my behalf with no ulterior motives and it made a difference in my life.  Now it is my turn to reach back and offer a hand up to others on a day-to-day basis,” explained Jones.

   Jones pointed out that less than 3% of the flight deck nationwide is made up of Black Americans and because of that low number, it is rare that he comes across a Black male or female pilot that he does not already know.  He is mindful of how others helped him and he feels led to give back and help others realize their dreams.

    Even though he rose to First Officer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft for United Airlines, aviation was not his first choice.  The Americus High School 2000 graduate studied pre-law and has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.  He took a year off after graduation prior to entering law school, but he found his passion for aviation and never regretted not attending law school.

   During what he thought was a gap year after he completed his bachelor degree, he was hired as a Flight Attendant at AirTran Airways (now absorbed into Southwest Airlines). He had only flown commercially two or three times before getting that position.   It was during his time as a Flight Attendant that he had the opportunity to meet and interact with Black pilots.  Several pilots saw his interest in aviation and encouraged him to consider flight school.

    While working full-time as a Flight Attendant from 2008 until 2014, he enrolled at Middle Georgia State University in Eastman for flight school.  He earned his pilot license and rating and completed his training there with a Certified Flight Instructor license.  He was later hired by the college to teach other aspiring pilots.

   He taught for a year and a half before taking a position with Express Jet Airlines flying the CRJ 200/700 and 900.  A year later, he moved on to Endeavor Airlines flying CRJs.  He was with Endeavor Airlines for four years and was updated to Captain in the CRJ 200 in 2021.

   In December of 2021, Jones was hired by United Airlines and awarded the Boeing 737 aircraft.  After two years on the 737, he moved over to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is the aircraft he is currently licensed to fly.

   He lives in Atlanta and commutes to work in Newark, NJ, to start and finish his trips.  In his free time, he volunteers with the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), where he is the southeast assistant regional director.

    He is the son of Tommie Jones of Americus and the late Brenda D. Jones.  His sister, Rachell J. Kitchens, is the owner of Final Faze Beauty Salon in Americus and is a graduate of the SGTC Cosmetology Department.  He also has a brother, Tommie A. Jones, who is a Sheriff’s Deputy in DeKalb County.

   South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford introduced Jones and thanked him for agreeing to speak and inspire the next generation of aviators or pilots or technicians.  “Aviation is near and dear to our hearts at South Georgia Technical College.  We have been training aviation maintenance technicians for over 75 years.”

   South Georgia Technical College General Education Instructor and 2024 SGTC Instructor of the Year, Dr. Michele Seay, presided over the Black History Celebration.  Rev. Glenn Bryant, Pastor of Green Grove, County Line and Greater New Lebanon Baptist Churches as well as a third-generation SGTC employee gave the invocation.  Damon Brown, SGTC Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership Finalist from Culinary Arts, provided the occasion.  SGTC Cosmetology and Air Conditioning graduate and current LPN student Shannon Jones-Leary performed solo’s with the assistance of Leonard Tyson, keyboardist.  SGTC Cosmetology student Chinequia Johnson provided the benediction.

   The members of the SGTC Black History Program committee who helped plan the event included:  Teresa O’Bryant, Josh Curtin, Dorothea Lusane-McKenzie, Victoria Herron and Cynthia Carter.