Beverley Drake

Last updated

Beverley Drake
Beverley Christiani Drake

(1956-06-20)20 June 1956
Other namesBeverly Johnson
Occupationpilot, NTSB accident investigator
Years active1977–present
Known forfirst woman pilot for the Guyana Defence Force

Beverley Drake (born 20 June 1956) is a Guyanese pilot and aviation expert who is an administrator and accident investigation analyst with the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). She was one of the first two woman pilots to work in the Guyana Defence Force, first woman commercial pilot of Guyana Airways, and was the first and only black woman to serve as a senior aviation accident investigator for the NTSB. She serves as the manager of the Federal Women's Program of the NTSB and program director of the Industry and Government Affairs division of the NTSB.


Early life

Beverley Drake was born on 20 June 1956 in Georgetown, Guyana, to Elaine and Clive Drake. She grew up, youngest of two daughters of the family in the Costello Housing Scheme in the neighbourhood known as "La Penitence". [1] She was a tomboy and enjoyed playing cricket with the neighbourhood boys and building model aircraft. She also shared a love of flying with her father, who had wanted to be a pilot. [2] Drake attended St. Pius Primary School before graduating from St. Rose's High School in 1974. She went on to further her education, enrolling in a course for a degree in chemistry and biology at the University of Guyana in 1975. For two years, she pursued her scientific studies before winning a scholarship to study aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. [1] Ten days after she began her schooling, Drake's mother died suddenly. Though a difficult time, she resolved to remain in school and returned to her studies after the funeral. [2] After completion of the coursework for instrument and crew management, as well as pilot licensing, Drake completed her flight training at the airfield, in Wallerfield, Trinidad. She received her commercial pilot's licence from Guyana in 1977. [1]


Upon completion of her training, Drake was hired as one of the first two-woman pilots of the Guyana Defence Force, flying Britten-Norman Islanders. [1] [2] [3] Her duties involved flying over Guyana's jungles, without navigational aids, to monitor the bush areas. [4] Within six months, she was transferred to Guyana Airways as their first woman pilot and began flying Hawker Siddeley 748s and de Havilland Canada Twin Otters. Her flight schedule involved both local flying and international flights to Barbados, Dominica and Trinidad. [1] During this time, she married an army major, Randolph Johnson. [4]

Drake's first son, Kevin was born in 1979 in Guyana and came with she and her husband when they moved to the United States the following year. [1] [2] Johnson wanted to pursue career options in New York, but Drake found it difficult to continue flying in Brooklyn. She tried to join the US Air Force and purse other options, but was turned away because she either didn't have the qualifications or wasn't a citizen. [4] Four years after Kevin's birth, Drake had her younger son, Kurt. [1] [2] Unable to work in aviation, she took a temporary job in 1984 working for Goldman Sachs and joined clubs like the Negro Airmen International, for which she became secretary, [4] and the Black Pilots of New York to keep up with her flying skills. [2]

The job with Goldman Sachs as an analyst [5] turned into a permanent position, though Drake recognised after the 1987 financial melt-down that it was unstable. [4] As a working mother, she had to rely on babysitters, neighbours and friends to help out with her children when she worked nights. [1] She also continued her networking with the Black Pilots of New York [5] and when another market crash occurred in 1989, Drake began thinking about returning to aviation. [4] One of the fellow members of the pilots club encouraged her apply for a position as a junior investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). [2]

In 1991, Drake was hired as an investigator and moved to Washington, D. C. [1] [2] When she joined the NTSB, Drake was surprised at the sexism she discovered and felt that she had to work "ten times better" than the others in the male-dominated field. [1] She divorced in 1994 [2] and returned to school, completing the program of the NTSB's Accident Investigation School and then a course on aircraft and helicopter accident investigation at the USC. Institute of Safety and Systems Management. [6] Drake earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautics [4] in 2002 and then in 2005 completed her master's degree in Aeronautical Science, both with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. [7] [5] She later became the first black woman senior accident investigator of the NTSB [7] and as of 2013 was the only woman to have served in that capacity. [4]

Drake serves as the manager of the NTSB's Federal Women's Program. [4] As part of her duties in administration, Drake consults with aviation officials in various countries in an effort to improve their safety records. She has investigated over 300 crashes and shares her expertise as a means of helping reduce mechanical and environmental factors involved in aircraft accidents. [8] In 2013, she was promoted to also serve as the Program Manager of the Office of the NTSB's Industry and Government Affairs division, which oversees forums and symposiums on air safety. [7] She has presented safety seminars throughout the United States, including for such organisations as the Experimental Aircraft Association and The National Air and Space Museum. [6]


In 2013, Drake's image was issued on a postage stamp in her native Guyana to honour her achievement as a pioneer pilot. [7] She actively works to inspire and mentor young women to pursue careers in aviation and STEM fields. [4]

Related Research Articles

National Transportation Safety Board

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. In this role, the NTSB investigates and reports on aviation accidents and incidents, certain types of highway crashes, ship and marine accidents, pipeline incidents, and railroad accidents. When requested, the NTSB will assist the military and foreign governments with accident investigation. The NTSB is also in charge of investigating cases of hazardous materials releases that occur during transportation. The agency is based in Washington, D.C. It has four regional offices, located in Anchorage, Alaska; Denver, Colorado; Ashburn, Virginia; and Seattle, Washington. The agency also operates a national training center at its Ashburn facility.

Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University university system specializing in aviation and aerospace

Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) is a private university focused on aviation and aerospace programs with its main campuses in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Prescott, Arizona, United States. It is the largest accredited university system specializing in aviation and aerospace. It has numerous online programs and academic programs offered at satellite locations.

NetJets Inc., a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, is an American company that sells part ownership or shares of private business jets. NetJets was founded in 1964 as Executive Jet Aviation. It was the first private business jet charter and aircraft management company.

Daytona Beach International Airport

Daytona Beach International Airport is a county-owned airport located three miles (5 km) southwest of Daytona Beach, next to Daytona International Speedway, in Volusia County, Florida, United States. The airport has 3 runways, a six-gate domestic terminal, and an international terminal. Daytona Beach is the headquarters of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Gol Linhas Aéreas Flight 1907 Mid-air plane collision

Gol Linhas Aéreas Flight 1907 was a Boeing 737-8EH on a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Manaus, Brazil, to Rio de Janeiro. On the afternoon of 29 September 2006, it collided in mid-air with an Embraer Legacy 600 business jet over the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The Boeing 737 broke up in midair and crashed into an area of dense jungle, killing all 154 passengers and crew on board. Despite sustaining serious damage to its left wing and tail, the Embraer Legacy jet landed safely with its seven occupants uninjured.

Francis H. McAdams, Jr. was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was a longtime member of the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). He joined the board on July 31, 1967, having been nominated a few months earlier by President Lyndon Johnson, and was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 20, 1978.

Gregory Allen "Greg" Feith is an American former Senior Air Safety Investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). He currently works as a consultant on aviation safety and security matters in the private sector, and as the aviation expert for NBC and MSNBC. He also serves as the technical advisor in a number of television programs such as Mayday, Seconds From Disaster, and Why Planes Crash while maintaining a busy speaking schedule.

John Paul Riddle was a pilot and aviation pioneer, best known for training Allied air crews in WW2 and co-founding what later became Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU).

Talton Higbee Embry was a wealthy aviation enthusiast who co-founded the company leading to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott

Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott is a residential campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. The university offers bachelor, master's, and PhD degree programs in arts, sciences, aviation, business, engineering, and security & intelligence. The Prescott campus also offers a master's degree in Safety Science, Security & Intelligence, and Cyber Intelligence & Security.

A national aviation authority (NAA) or civil aviation authority(CAA) is a government statutory authority in each country that maintains an aircraft register and oversees the approval and regulation of civil aviation.

Caribbean Airlines Flight 523

Caribbean Airlines Flight 523 was a passenger flight which overran the runway at Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Georgetown, Guyana, on 30 July 2011. Seven of the 163 aboard suffered injuries. The aircraft involved, a Boeing 737-800, was operating Caribbean Airlines' scheduled international service from John F. Kennedy Airport, New York, to Georgetown.

Robert L. Sumwalt (U.S. government official)

Robert Llewellyn Sumwalt III is an American academic, aviator, government official and writer. He has been a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board since 2006, serving as the agency's chairman since 2017.

British Airways Flight 2276 2015 aircraft fire at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas

British Airways Flight 2276 was a scheduled international passenger service from Las Vegas to London. On 8 September 2015, the Boeing 777 operating the flight suffered an uncontained engine failure and fire in the left (#1) GE90 engine during take-off from Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport, prompting an aborted take-off and the evacuation of all passengers and crew. All 170 people on board survived, but 20 were injured. The aircraft, which suffered moderate damage to a section of its forward fuselage as of a result of the vigorous fire, was repaired and returned to commercial passenger service in March 2016.

Timeline of women in aviation

This is a timeline of women in aviation which describes many of the firsts and achievements of women as pilots and other roles in aviation. Women who are part of this list have piloted vehicles, including hot-air balloons, gliders, airplanes, dirigibles and helicopters. Some women have been instrumental in support roles. Others have made a name for themselves as parachutists and other forms of flight-related activities. This list encompasses women's achievements from around the globe.

Patrice Washington is a Bahamian airplane pilot, whose career was marked by a series of firsts. She was the first black woman graduate of Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; first woman pilot of Bahamasair; first black woman captain of a major U.S. air service and first black female pilot hired by the United Parcel Service.

Cheryl Pickering-Moore was one of the first two women to fly as a pilot for the Guyana Defence Force and a pioneer aviator in her native Guyana. In 2013, she was recognised in Guyana with a postage stamp issued with her likeness.

Fly Jamaica Airways Flight 256 2018 commercial airline accident

Fly Jamaica Airways Flight 256 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana to Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada. The Boeing 757 aircraft serving the flight suffered a technical fault on 9 November 2018, forcing its return and resulting in a runway excursion on landing. This caused significant damage to the aircraft and one passenger fatality.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 McKenzie 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Withrow 2014, p. 9.
  3. iNews Guyana 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Alleyne 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 Drakes 2005, p. 1.
  6. 1 2 Snow 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Withrow 2014, p. 8.
  8. iNews Guyana 2015.


  • Alleyne, Oluatoyin (28 July 2013). "A passion for flying". Georgetown, Guyana: Stabroek News . Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  • Drakes, Sean (1 July 2005). "Fly Safe: An aviation investigator sets some ground rules". New York City: Black Enterprise. pp. 1–2. Archived from the original on 24 December 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  • McKenzie, Nigel (9 June 2013). "Pilot, analyst and administrator, Beverley Drake, is a 'Special Person'". Georgetown, Guyana: Kaieteur News. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  • Snow, Pamela (13 March 2013). "Beverley Christiani-Drake, Senior Aviation Accident Investigator/Analyst". Georgetown, Guyana: Guyana Graphic. Archived from the original on 7 April 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  • Withrow, Sara (Fall 2014). "Flight Path". Lift. Daytona Beach, Florida: Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University. 10 (2): 8–9. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  • "Eight women honoured for contributions to local aviation sector; calls echoed for re-engineering of Guyana Airways". Georgetown, Guyana: iNews Guyana. 10 October 2013. Archived from the original on 10 October 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  • "U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Rep. shares Best Practices at Aviation Conf". Georgetown, Guyana: iNews Guyana. 24 October 2015. Archived from the original on 24 December 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2016.