Guyana honors pioneer female aviators

Cheryl Leanna Moore left, and Beverley Drakes proudly display frames with the postage stamps in their honor, unveiled by Guyana Prime Minister Sam Hinds (center).
Photo courtesy of The Guyana Chronicle

Two esteemed former Guyana pilots, Beverley Drakes and Cheryl Leanna Moore were honored on World Post Day, Oct. 9, with the unveiling of $20 and $80 postage stamps bearing their images.

Drakes – the first commercial aviator – made history as the first African-American woman, and the only woman currently serving as a senior aviation accident/analyst with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), pledged to be an ambassador for Guyana, and to continue to work with girls and boys at home and abroad in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Drakes, who was among six other women in the aviation field to be recognized for their outstanding contribution, said she was overwhelmed with emotion as she looked into the audience and saw the happy faces of friends and relatives of the honorees.

Claiming many firsts, the former Guyana Airways pilot, was the number-one female to fly the Twin Otter and the Hawker Siddeley 748, and to date has investigated more than 300 small- and large-scale accidents as a member of the NTSB.

With such outstanding achievements under her wing, this brilliant airwoman said she felt the spiritual presence of her deceased parents whose dream it was also for her to succeed as a pilot. She also thanked her aunt Phyllis for being there to support her.
“This prestigious honor could not have been achieved without the inspiration from my Guyanese colleagues and my sons Kevin and Kurt, added Drakes, who said she faced several challenges along the way, “but they have made me who I am today –a thorough professional and successful achiever.”

Determined to be one of the first and the best, Drakes left Guyana on a scholarship at the tender age of 19 and successful achieved her wings and ratings from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University before she returned to join the Guyana Defense Force. During her tenure, she skillfully flew a twin-engine airplane with limited navigational aids, in the dense jungles of Guyana.

The current head of the NTSB Federal Women’s program was praised by Deputy Director in the Office of Aviation, Dana Schultze, who said Beverly’s commitment to safety shows every day in the energy and enthusiasm that she brings to her work.

“She also is an active participant in outreach programs within the local community, and serves as an inspiration to the next generation of safety professionals,” added Schultze.

Like Drakes, Cheryl Leanna Moore blazed a trail by becoming the first female to fly for the Guyana Defense Force, while carrying out duties as personal assistant to the commander. The recently-retired LIAT pilot also conducted interviews, assessments and training for new inductees to the Women’s Army Corps while serving in the military.

A former lieutenant and astute aviator, Moore flew the Twin Otter, Hawker Siddley HS 784 and the DeHavilland Dash 8 aircrafts alongside her counterpart and was the color ensign in the first all-female guard of honor that welcomed then Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, at Timehri International Airport in 1975.

According to reports, the airwomen were among six other females to be honored at a ceremony unveiling the postage stamps by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who called the ladies “pioneers” and added that he was pleased that they were honored in the year that Guyana observed 100 years of flight.

In turn, Post Master General Henry Dundas told the aviators who were honored in the Officers Mess of the Guyana Defense Force at Camp Ayanganna in Georgetown, that the stamps could be likened to roving ambassadors, since they will go to all parts of Guyana, regionally, and internationally, ending up in thousands of homes across the world.

He added that the stamp tells a story of a nation’s history, culture and other important facts of the country of origin, according to the Guyana Chronicle online.

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