First Black woman to pilot the cool spy planes of Intelligence
By Naturally Triece
In order for Navy SEAL teams to affectively hunt down terrorists, or for foreign analysts to track the movement of WMDs, our leaders have to rely solely on special pilots to capture that type of intelligence through the use of their spy plane cameras.
Meyrrel Tengesdal is the only African American female pilot on the job.
Tengesdal, 43, spoke with The Root from a California air base about her journey when growing up in New York City, and how she climbed to the top of the ranks in both the Navy and Air Force in order to become such a distinguished spy plane pilot.
Tengesdal tells The Root that she knew pretty early on that she wanted to be an astronaut, or some sort of pilot. She got push back from her father, who always seemed to question whether or not human beings were even meant to fly in the air.
“My father always said that if God wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings,” Tengesdal said. “He was not a big proponent. He didn’t think it was an idea that was suitable for me,” she explained.
But Tengesdal was adamant about her vision and took it upon herself to excel in mathematics and science. After she graduated from the University of New Haven, located in Connecticut, receiving a degree in electrical engineering, she then enrolled in flight school. During this time she was able to learn how to fly alongside a surprising amount of other African Americans.
“It was kind of surprising to me because there were a lot of Black people there,” Tengesdal said. She recalled a situation that many African Americans can relate to: when Black people in any predominantly white setting seem to seek out and find one another and create their own clique, just to hang out and kick it.
“It was fun. I remember, we were in the hangar, and there was a bunch of us out there,” Tengesdal said, laughing, “and we were like, ‘OK, we have to break this up now.’”
When Tengesdal is asked about how ‘race’ has been a benefactor in her training and her time that she has proudly held during her military career, she began to explain that because she was often one of few African Americans, that it always seemed to be her motivation “not to mess up.”
“I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to say that I was here because I was a minority or a female,” Tengesdal said. “I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to doubt why I was there.”