According to one report, fewer than three percent of commercial pilots are Black, which makes the story of Captain John Curry and his son Chris Curry, exceptional. John Curry grew up in the small town of Dublin, Georgia, deciding at the age of six that he wanted to fly. He’s now flown with American Airlines for over two decades, working as a check pilot for the airline on the Boeing 777 aircraft — the only Black check pilot at American currently serving that fleet type. His son Chris followed in his father’s footsteps and is now a captain for Envoy, an American Airlines regional carrier. We talked to the Miami-based duo about their careers, how they stay sane on the road and their favorite routes out of Miami.
InsideHook: John, What made you want to become a pilot?
John Curry: When I was young, I took my first plane ride with my family to California. My dad gave me his camera, and he just let me snap away. I think I used about two dozen rolls of film because there was something about flying through the clouds that just amazed me.
Chris, what was it about seeing your dad become a pilot that made you want to pursue a career in aviation?
Chris Curry: I would watch my dad leave the house often, and early on, I really didn’t understand the concept that he actually flew airplanes. But every time he returned, he would buy my mom things from different places. Later, I started getting curious about where he was going. Slowly but surely, it started piquing my interest until I told myself it was something I could do.
Your career trajectories are impressive based on the numbers out there for Black pilots. Why do you think there are so few Black pilots?
John Curry: I think being in certain communities, especially minority communities, not a lot of kids get to see pilots that look like them. Once they see someone who looks like them, they start thinking that they can do it, too. Today, I think that’s improving, especially as more Black pilots go out into schools and mentor. That’s the best part of mentoring — being able to talk to kids, and they see you in your uniform and say, “I can do what he’s doing.”
What’s been the most rewarding moment of your career?
Chris Curry: It was when my nana wanted a photo of my dad and me in our uniforms. It kind of put everything in perspective and reminded me how real this was. I’ve been talking about being a pilot since high school. I always wanted to fly for American Airlines and fly with my dad, and now here we are in the Miami terminal at Gate D50 wearing the same uniform, smiling from ear to ear.
The Age of Self-Flying Planes Is Upon UsNo pilot? No problem. At least that’s the hope.
What are your favorite short-haul flights out of Miami?
Chris Curry: So far my favorite is Dominica. It’s beautiful and the water is crystal clear. I also love Monterrey, Mexico. It’s very mountainous, and there’s lots to do when you get there. They have a great downtown and some of the best tacos I’ve ever had.
John Curry: I would have to say St. Thomas, St. Croix, or St. Martin. The water in the Caribbean is beautiful. It’s a nice bluish-greenish, calm water, and everybody’s always in a good mood. Colombia is also a good place to fly into — whether it’s Bogota or Cali, you get there and the culture and food are always great. It’s not too expensive and people treat you well.
Team carry-on or checked bag?
Chris Curry: Team carry-on, all day every day. You just never know. American Airlines does a great job at keeping up with everyone’s bag, but there’s just something about having my carry-on and knowing it’s right above my head.
John Curry: I’m the same. Things can change. If you have a carry-on, it’s best to take your bag with you just in case something happens. If you have to change plans to change flights, you have your bag with you. I take a carry-on bag on every flight. I don’t ever check a bag.
How do you stay in shape mentally and physically traveling so often?
John Curry: I go to the gym. I rarely stay at a hotel that doesn’t have a good gym. If not, I’ll find a path and go running.
Chris Curry: I go for a lot of runs too, and I bring a jump rope with me if I need to. I also try to start off my morning with my phone put away, and I just start reading. I keep a collection of two or three books with me. I’ll also play some piano music to get my body up and ready for the day.
Any advice for the busy summer travel season ahead?
Chris Curry: It may look nice on paper, but that 30-minute connection between flights — don’t do it. Give yourself at least an hour. You may not want to sit at the airport, but you’ll thank me later.
John Curry: Get to the airport early, so you’re not stressed by the security lines. Get there early, go through security, and once you go to the other side you can relax.
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