After more than 30 years in the aviation industry, Stephanie Chung is breaking barriers and making history. Chung is the first African American — male or female — to become president of a private aviation company in the United States.
As president of JetSuite, Chung oversees everything from the buying and selling of planes to maintenance, pilots, flight crews, operations, sales and marketing.
"I’ve been in this business for 35 years," Chung explained. "I love this industry. Now, when I wake up, to know I’m the first African American ever in U.S. history to run a major private jet company, I’m pinching myself. One day I’m normal. And the next I’m a history maker."
According to Airlines for America, only 16 percent of women around the world hold a senior role in the aviation industry. Only 3 percent of women hold the title of CEO.
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Chung’s love for aviation was passed down from her father, who served in the United States Air Force.
"I grew up around planes. I knew that I wanted to be in the industry, I just didn’t know what I my options were," Chung explained. "I would see pilots, but they were always male. It wasn’t until I got into the space and starting working that I was able to envision my role within aviation."
Her success was not overnight. "I started loading luggage, parking planes, excelling in customer service and worked my way up," Chung said. "When I get into sales, that is when things really began to take off."
Throughout the years she has cultivated her skills in leadership.
"That’s my favorite part. I’m focused on my team. I get to set the vision and then step out of the way and let them shine! As I am reaching these levels of success I have to turn around and see how I can help other minorities and women. Here at JetSuite, we are all about diversity and creating those opportunities."
When faced with obstacles her advice to the next generation of leaders is stay focused.
"When you’re on top of the mountain and everything is wonderful, that’s a great season to be in," Chung said. "But the truth of the matter is, you really don’t grow in that season. So the real growth comes when you’re grinding it out, gritting it out, and going through your tough time. You also have to remember, tough times don’t last, people do."
Not only is she the first black woman to become president of a private aviation company, Chung is also an author of several books, including "Profit Like a Girl: A Woman’s Guide to Kicking Butt in Sales and Leadership."
JetSuite and JetSuiteX are private aviation charter companies co-founded by Alex Wilcox. Wilcox was also a founding executive of JetBlue Airways as well as president and chief executive officer of of King Fisher Airlines until 2006. JetSuite recently relocated their headquarters in Dallas.