Pilots Beverly Drakes, Cheryl Moore & Feriel Ally excelling in aviation

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L-R: Beverly Drakes, Cheryl Moore, Ferial Ally

By: Amar Persaud

For years, careers in the aviation sector have mostly been considered a man’s job but while this is no longer the case today, the industry is still largely male-dominated.

But pilots Beverly Drakes, Cheryl Moore and Ferial Ally each overcame unique challenges and accomplished many feats as they continue to excel in local and international aviation fields.

Drakes is currently based in the United States as the Program Manager in the Office of Government and Industry Affairs for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). She also serves as the Federal Women’s Program Manager.

The 65-year-old, who has been in the aviation sector for 45 years, also previously served as one of the first two female military pilots in the Guyana Defence Force. She worked in the local aviation sector for some two years before migrating to the US.

Drakes’ professional accomplishments were also recognised at the national level in Guyana in 2013 when she was honoured with her own Guyanese postage stamp. In 2019, this seasoned aviator was also honoured with several awards including the New York State Senate Citation as the 2019 Pioneer and Woman of Influence Award.

Reflecting on her journey during an interview with INews, Drakes explained that as a little girl growing up in La Penitence, Georgetown, it was always her dream to soar the skies as a pilot.

Beverly Drakes during her younger years in aviation

“I was attending UG at the time and I got a Guyana scholarship to go to Embry Riddle [Aeronautical University]. Twelve of us were selected including Captain Gerry Gouveia; we trained the same time in Florida,” Drakes explained how she got her break in aviation.

She admitted that her early years in the aviation field had many challenges however, with hard work and determination, she was able to overcome them. Drakes also noted that the mentorship provided by persons like Colonel Egbert Fields who is the current Head of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the late Captain Malcolm Chan-a-Sue were instrumental in her becoming the seasoned aviator she is today.

“Being the first female pilot at Guyana Airways Corporation in 1977, I didn’t think I was welcomed by the other male pilots but with the training I received at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and in the Army, I was ready to perform in a male-dominated job, of course, with the help of my mentors,” she explained.

Cheryl Moore with her mentors Egbert Field, the late Malcolm Chan-a-Sue, and Gerry Gouveia

“It was challenging at times, but my mentors…they helped me to overcome the fear of being in a predominantly male environment,” she added.

In detailing some of her fondest memory, Drakes said her time at the GDF was quite remarkable.

“Flying supplies to the soldiers when I flew for the army, flying in the bush and arriving at the airport and seeing the faces of those soldiers as we brought in the supplies and also flying to Barbados, Trinidad and we did fly to Dominica, there was a hurricane and we provided medical supplies. So, flying those routes were some of my favourite memories of being in the aviation sector,” she shared.

Asked why she migrated, Drakes explained that “My husband and one-year-old son migrated, so I followed them.”

Cheryl Moore and a colleague during her younger years in aviation

Similarly, Moore attended the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University under the same circumstances as Drakes. The 71-year-old aviator, who has 34 years of experience, was the other first female pilot of the GDF and she too shared the same mentors as Drakes.

Moore, who was born in Kitty, Georgetown, related during an interview with INews that “I went to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in 1976 along with eleven other trainee pilots and we returned in 1977…in 1975, International Women’s Year was observed globally and also in Guyana, a decision was then made by the government to send females to train to become pilots I was one of those.”

Moore eventually retired in early 2011.

Among her notable achievements, Moore was the first female ADC to the then Vice President Viola Burnham.

She explained that during the early part of her career, some people were not too acceptive of her role in the sector. Notwithstanding, there were others who were tremendously supportive.

“There were mixed reviews. Some persons welcomed and embraced us while others were a bit apprehensive,” she explained.

In 1989, she migrated to the United States of America and began flying with LIAT.

Moore stated that it was a bit challenging balancing the responsibilities of her family life as well as her job.

“When I joined LIAT and began living overseas, I had to have a live-in helper, as by that time I had two children and my job entailed overnighting from time to time. Getting to and from school especially living in a foreign country was a bit difficult at times but it always worked out in the end.”

Like Drakes, Moore said her favourite memories working in aviation was also with the GDF.

“When I was flying with Guyana Airways…it was always good interacting with people from all walks of life throughout the lengths and breath of Guyana and it was always a joy to see the kids because airplanes did not land in their areas very often, so once an aircraft was there, all the school children and sometimes their teachers would come out,” Moore reminisced.

Feriel Ally

Also leading a successful career in aviation is 54-year-old Ally who joined the industry when she was 19. Ally explained that aviation flows through her blood, since her father, Yacoob Ally was the founder of Air Services Limited.

“My father being a pilot/pioneer aviator, I flew with him for many years, worked in his business as a teenager during my high school years, I developed a passion for flying. After high school, I went to flight school in the USA and returned and worked for many years with my father’s business,” she explained.

But as her thirst for knowledge and new experiences grew, Ally ended up working at different entities in the sector including at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), the GCAA and where she is now currently employed, at Trans Guyana Airways.

“I continued to enhance my career in the aviation industry. I moved laterally in the sector because I wanted to be involved and having work experience in airline, airport management and the regulatory field of the industry,” she stated.

Like any other job, Ally admitted that there were many challenges which she had to overcome.

“There were challenges being a female pilot in a male-dominated workplace. However, I never allowed same to dissuade me. As the years went by, I put my challenges into perspective and continued to be positive…having that right and ability to choose whatever you want to be even if it is in regardless of the sector and pursue those dreams and ambitions with passion and persuasion.  This has been and will continue to be the most impactful experience of my role as a female pilot,” she expressed.