Celebrating Black History Month

February marks the start of Black History Month, honoring African American men and women and celebrating the contributions they’ve made.

This includes many of our own SkyWest employees. Throughout the month we’ll be sharing some of their stories and highlighting how they are making an impact or inspiring others around them.

Michelle McElwee – Flight Attendant, DTW

Michelle has been on the SkyWest team for more than three years. She was inspired to get her wings after seeing her daughter, who is also a flight attendant, join the industry and fall in love with aviation.

Her passion for all things aviation has also led her to write a children’s book called I Found My Wings. The book follows Shelly, a young, Black girl, who is apprehensive about her first flight experience. Michelle wanted to showcase the diversity of flying and give young Black girls and boys inspiration to travel and to believe in their own dreams and aspirations.

“This is what Black History Month is all about,” she said. “Being inspired by each other, dreaming, working, and representation.”

LaWanda Williams – Flight Attendant, DTW

LaWanda knew she wanted to work in the travel industry, and after learning about SkyWest, the choice was a no-brainer. She was initially excited about the flight privileges on each of our mainline partners, but soon after being hired she discovered how much she loves being part of our SkyWest team.

“My grandmother and mother were women who traveled and would share stories about the places they visited,” said LaWanda. “I was given the opportunity to fulfill my dream job and now their stories don’t compare to mine!”

For LaWanda, Black History Month means the world gets the opportunity to know the accomplishments Black people have contributed to making our world a better place. She remembers her grandfather’s candy company that makes peanut patties, peanut brittle, and peppermint candy. His sweet treats can still be found in grocery stores across Texas. Another standout memory for her is the Black women’s contributions to America’s moon landing.

“I love my job and that no two days are the same,” she said. “And, I am happy to share my story and remember my predecessors through Black History Month.”

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Chasing Flight Attendant Dreams

SkyWest Flight Attendant Diane Hansen had big dreams to become a stewardess in the 1960s. Unfortunately, she never reached the 5’2” standard that was required.

“I had a measuring tape attached to my doorframe and I would measure myself, but I never grew,” she said. As there were no exceptions to the rules, Diane decided she would never be a flight attendant. Thankfully this didn’t dampen her love for the aviation industry.

In fact, years after putting her dream to become a flight attendant on hold, Diane became involved in the volunteer Navigator Program at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport where she helps passengers as they are flying in and out. Through her volunteer efforts for the last 17 years, she has also encountered many flight attendants in the airport. Eventually she thought, “This is my dream. If I don’t try now, I’ll lose my chance.”

Diane thought no one would want to hire a 70-year-old flight attendant but after applying to several airlines she received an offer from both SkyWest and Frontier Airlines.

“It was an easy decision to go with SkyWest,” she said. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve been here for three years and I’m having more fun than I could possibly believe.”

“You can’t say that you can’t do something because you’re too old,” said Diane. Her inspiring story is a great example of following your dreams and we are so happy to have her on the SkyWest team! If you’re ready to follow your aviation dreams, visit our careers page today!

SkyWest Pilot Shares His Fight With Cancer

For SkyWest pilot Bruce McNaughton, next month will mark 23 years since his last dose of chemotherapy. While not everyone is fortunate to beat cancer, Captain McNaughton is thankful for the extra time that has allowed him to see his kids grow up, and to continue his passion for aviation.

The Denver ERJ Captain was diagnosed in 1994 with hairy cell leukemia when he was serving in the Air Force. Following his diagnosis, he began treatment for the next six months.

“I remember the oncologist telling me that if I had to get cancer, this was the one,” Captain McNaughton recalled. “This particular cancer is considered an indolent disease; it takes its time. But there was still physical discomfort, life disruption, and the unknowns.”

In 1995, he returned to flight status and moved to another Air Force base. Then, during a checkup three years later, the flight surgeon noticed that Captain McNaughton’s blood count was trending down. A relapse was diagnosed and he resumed treatment. The following year, Captain McNaughton returned to flight status and has been disease-free ever since.

After retiring from the Air Force, Captain McNaughton joined the airline industry and flew commercially before taking some time away to work at a family-owned tax practice.

“I quickly realized how much I missed flying,” he said. “I put in an application to SkyWest in 2016, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s been great and I have really enjoyed being at SkyWest.”

When he’s not flying 35,000 feet in the air, Captain McNaughton can be found visiting with cancer patients as well as sending gifts to many who are fighting the disease throughout the country.

“When I started chemotherapy in 1994, I would go in every other Monday for six months,” he said. “During this time, I would get hooked up to an IV and the nurse would put a jar of “belly flops” – which are imperfect jelly beans – on the table next to me for a snack. It’s a whimsical diversion because you never know what flavor it’s going to be. So what I’ve done over the years is send a jar of belly flops to those I hear about who have cancer. I tell them my story and let them know that they are not alone.”

For Captain McNaughton, just being there for others is what it’s all about.

“I’ve had people tell me that they wanted to call me, but were hesitant because they didn’t know what to say,” he said. “So my message to those people is this: Please don’t avoid contact because you don’t know what to say. Just being there, or keeping in contact with a phone call, text, or postcard goes a long way.”

Congratulations Captain McNaughton on being cancer free the past 23 years. Your efforts to encourage and inspire others is shared by all of us at SkyWest in the fight against cancer.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

SkyWest is proud to have a diverse team with many cultures and backgrounds represented throughout our workforce. This month we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month and heard from many of our employees about what their heritage means to them and how it plays a role at SkyWest. Here’s what they had to say:

Paola Johnson — Flight Attendant, SLC

I was born in Santiago, Chile, and came to the United States when I was 10 years old. I’ll never forget that night and the bittersweet goodbyes. On that 10-hour flight, my love for aviation began thanks to an amazing flight attendant who took me under her wing. Though she was working first class, she constantly checked up on me and spoiled me with inflight goodies (pillow, blanket, snacks, and coloring books). It was that moment when I said to myself, “I want to be just like her.” The kindness she showed me really impacted me and inspired me to become a flight attendant just like her.

Years later, one of my friends told me about a SkyWest hiring event that was being held in Salt Lake City the following day. I thought the idea of possibly interviewing the very next day was crazy, but I took my chances, and five years later, here I am!

After my first year at SkyWest, I jumped at the opportunity to join the InFlight recruitment team. I love going to recruitment events and seeing not only the excitement that so many applicants have, but giving them the same opportunities that I was given. I’ll never forget when I asked an applicant a question and he responded by saying that it was inspiring and motivating for him to see a Latina flight attendant conducting his interview. It made him proud and happy to see diversity here at SkyWest.

In July, I celebrated my five-year work anniversary at SkyWest and my experiences have been nothing but amazing. I’m so grateful for the many friendships that I’ve built here and the places I’ve been able to see and explore. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities SkyWest has provided for me and my family!

Eventually, my family went back to Chile, but they left me with many valuable lessons that I still cherish to this day: the value of hard work, having courage and believing in yourself – even if you have to start over. As a mom, I hope that I’m teaching my daughters that same work ethic and showing them that anything is possible, no matter where they come from.

Nayomie Burns — Flight Attendant, DFW

I have always wanted to be a flight attendant. I grew up an Army brat (child), and lived in some pretty diverse places. Both of my parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico and married very young. My mom always instilled in us to get an education and to do better than they did. So, although my desire was to become a flight attendant after high school, I obeyed and went to college.

I truly enjoyed my time as a college student and made such great friends. But again, I was in rural Louisiana at the time and people did not know that Puerto Ricans could have such dark skin. I always had to explain myself to others, but that is one thing that I’ve never had to do at SkyWest.

When I joined the SkyWest family as a flight attendant, I said to myself, “I am done. I am in my forever career.” I’m so glad I came here and didn’t go elsewhere. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great people and have met more Latinx pilots than I can count. I have been inspired by them and countless others to try my hand on the other side of the door.

I started taking flight lessons a couple of years ago and finally received my PPL this past June – right as I transferred to Dallas (DFW). During this time, I have met so many Latinx pilots and plan to join them one day as an Afro-Latina, which I am proud to be. I really appreciate the opportunities that SkyWest affords me and how they embrace and encourage individuality while still being part of a larger community.

Rene Azahar — CRJ Captain, FAT

SkyWest CRJ Captain Rene Azahar credits his father for sparking his passion for aviation and for helping him get to where he is today.

“Growing up, my dad would take me over to Los Angeles International Airport to watch the planes take off and land. It was a thrill! When we weren’t at the airport, you could find us flying model airplanes at the park.”

A few years later, the family moved to Santa Maria, California, right behind the airport. From his backyard, Captain Azahar could see the SkyWest planes take off and land. It was during this time that Captain Azahar made it his goal to be a commercial airline pilot for SkyWest one day.

With strong family support and his dad telling him to never give up on his dream, Captain Azahar fulfilled that promise in 2017 when he was hired at SkyWest.

Click here to read more about Captain Azahar’s inspiring path to becoming a commercial airline pilot.

JJ Jimenez Lopez — Flight Attendant, DFW

For SkyWest Flight Attendant JJ Jimenez Lopez, working in the aviation industry wasn’t something that had ever crossed his mind growing up. That all changed when a friend and fellow SkyWest Flight Attendant Vanna Hoang, encouraged him to look into it.

“Vanna introduced me to SkyWest and the aviation industry, and the next minute I’m covering one of her trips,” said JJ. “How cool is that! Every time I see Vanna I make sure to thank her because SkyWest has changed my life.”

For JJ, who recently celebrated his five-year work anniversary this summer, it all wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his parents who made a number of sacrifices so that he could have a better life.

“I’m proud of my heritage. It means everything to me,” said the Dallas-based flight attendant. “My parents taught me early on about the importance of hard work, dedication, and being proud of where I come from and who I am. My parents came from nothing and gave my siblings and me a better life. Their sacrifice and love is something that I’ll never forget.”

Click here to read more about JJ’s path to becoming a flight attendant.

SkyWest Supports Wings for Autism

SkyWest crewmembers Captain Casey M., First Officer Daniel T., and Flight Attendants Sydney W. and Hunter H. recently had the chance to welcome a few special passengers onboard a CRJ at The Wings For Autism event at Minot International Airport (MOT). This special event provided an opportunity for kids and their families to experience all the realities of flight without ever leaving the ground.

As part of the event, the young fliers went through check-in and security, then boarded the SkyWest plane for a “special” flight. Once onboard the children got to see the flight deck, listen to the safety announcements, and hear the engines spool up. Flight attendants Sydney and Hunter provided an exceptional cabin experience, including top-notch beverage and snack service to the young passengers. 

SkyWest is proud to partner with The Autism Research Center (The ARC) and the TSA to provide opportunities for families with special needs children to experience what it’s like to take a real commercial flight. These Wings for Autism events are a great way to alleviate some of the stress that is experienced when traveling by air because families and individuals have a chance to practice the process in advance. SkyWest has sponsored several Wings for Autism events over the years and we look forward to more opportunities in the future. 

Thank you to our crews for going above and beyond with this event, and to all those who made it possible.

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Captain Azahar Makes Promise, Fulfills Dream

As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize one of our pilots whose heritage has played a role in his career as a pilot. CRJ Captain Rene Azahar also credits his father for sparking his passion for aviation and for helping him get to where he is today. Despite the obstacles and hardships that came, Rene has overcome the challenges, achieved his goal, and is now living his dream. Read on as he describes his path to becoming a commercial pilot at SkyWest.


I was born in El Salvador, a small country located in Central America. Back in the 1980s, a dangerous civil war was taking place, so for safety reasons, my parents immigrated my sister and me to America when I was just four years old. It was on that Boeing 737 flight to Los Angeles (LAX) that I fell in love with aviation. From that day forward, the only thing I wanted to be was an airline pilot.

My road to the cockpit was a very long and difficult one. Oftentimes, I felt as though my desire to become a professional aviator would never be more than just a dream. The problem in our family was always a lack of finances. My parents left their careers as lawyers in El Salvador and had to start from scratch in America. On top of that, I had to go through the very lengthy process of becoming a U.S. citizen. The wonderful thing is that while my family lacked financial resources, they more than made up for it through their love, support, and encouragement to always dream big.

My biggest supporter was my dad. When I was a kid, he was always taking me to LAX to watch planes take off and land from all over the world. It was a thrill! When we couldn’t go to the airport, we would build and fly little model airplanes at the park. Later on, we moved to Santa Maria, California (SMX), right next to the airport. From my backyard, I could see the SkyWest Brasilia planes take off and land. I was 13 years old the day I thought to myself: “Someday, I’m going to fly for SkyWest Airlines.” My dad always told me never to give up on this dream of mine and that with hard work and determination, someday I’d find myself wearing a pilot uniform walking towards my jet.

My dad’s words came true. After years of hard work and saving every penny that I could, I was able to go to flight school and obtain my pilot certificates, ratings, and flight time. I applied to SkyWest and my whole family jumped for joy when I was invited to interview for a position as a First Officer! I can’t describe the look on my dad’s face when I told him the interview went great and that I had been offered a position as a SkyWest pilot. That was the proudest moment for me and something that I will never forget.

Unfortunately, my dad passed away 10 days before my SkyWest class date. The day he passed was the saddest time of my life. However, he and I had this dream together and I knew he wanted me to continue. On the first day of my IOE, as I found myself wearing my pilot’s uniform and walking towards my jet, I could feel my dad’s presence right there with me. To this day, when I’m up at cruising altitude as the sun is going down, I can feel my dad sitting in that jumpseat with a big smile on his face, especially when I’m lining up to land on runway 24R in LAX – where he and I stood for hours watching airplanes come in.

When I meet kids who have an interest in becoming pilots but think it might be too hard or too expensive, I tell them, “If a poor kid from El Salvador can do it, you can do it too!”


SkyWest is proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and appreciate the contributions of all those like Captain Azahar who continue help make the airline the best in the industry and for encouraging and inspiring the next generation of aviation professionals. To learn how you could become a part of the SkyWest team, check out our Careers page and apply today.

Hispanic Heritage Month: “SkyWest Changed My Life”

For SkyWest Flight Attendant JJ Jimenez Lopez, working in the aviation industry wasn’t something that had ever crossed his mind as he was growing up.

That all changed when a friend and fellow SkyWest Flight Attendant Vanna Hoang, encouraged him to look into it.

“I bumped into Vanna at a friend’s wedding and we just started talking about her career at SkyWest. She told me how much she loved being a flight attendant and told me that I would be a great fit,” JJ recalled. “She gave me some tips and the next thing I know I was in training and have been a SkyWest Flight Attendant ever since.”

“I’ll never forget JJ texting me and telling me that he got the job,” said Vanna. “I was super ecstatic for him and it’s been great having him at SkyWest.”

Although JJ and Vanna have been based in different crew domiciles over the years, JJ was able to pick up a trip for Vanna recently in what was a full-circle moment for the two of them.

“Vanna introduced me to SkyWest and the aviation industry, and the next minute I’m covering one of her trips,” said JJ. “How cool is that! Every time I see Vanna I make sure to thank her for helping me get here because SkyWest has changed my life.”

Growing up in the small town of Casas Viejas, Mexico – roughly four hours northwest of Mexico City – JJ didn’t have a lot of future career opportunities.

“The town had one phone,” said JJ. “Everyone had to share it and it didn’t take long for everyone to know each other.”

Wanting to give his children more opportunities, JJ’s father, Salvador, worked in the fields as a migrant worker in California. After several years, the family was able to move to the United States, and eventually settled in Utah.

“My parents worked two jobs and did everything for me and my siblings to have a better life,” said JJ.

Unfortunately, JJ’s parents both passed away just over a year ago. While the loss has been tough for him and his siblings, they are continuing to honor their memories by following their examples and keeping their heritage and culture alive.

“I’m proud of my heritage. It means everything to me,” said the Dallas-based flight attendant. “My parents taught me early on about the importance of hard work, dedication, and being proud of where I come from and who I am. My parents came from nothing and gave my siblings and me a better life. Their sacrifice and love is something that I’ll never forget.”

The values and teachings from his parents are paying off for JJ as he is now pursuing his dream to become a commercial pilot. As part of the process, JJ is using SkyWest’s Professional Leave Program (PRO) – which allows employees to maintain employment as they work toward obtaining the training and certifications to become a SkyWest pilot, A&P mechanic or dispatcher.

“I never considered being a pilot until I came to SkyWest,” said JJ. “But that’s what I love about SkyWest. The company is diverse, it’s my second home, I love my coworkers and it provides so many opportunities. I can’t tell you how many SkyWest pilots have taken me under their wing to give me tips and advice to help me succeed as I work towards becoming a pilot.”

The help from coworkers and the doors that have opened to him has not gone unnoticed to JJ, who makes it a point to pay it forward whenever he can.

“When I was working a trip in Detroit, I noticed a family who looked lost in the airport. I’ve been there too,” JJ said laughing. “I went over and introduced myself and asked if they needed any help. They didn’t speak English, but I was able to talk to them in Spanish and help them make their connecting flight. The kids were surprised because they had never come across a Mexican flight attendant before. I told them my story and let them know that anything is possible and to work hard and they will achieve it. I know that first hand because I’m proof of that.”

This past summer, JJ celebrated his five-year work anniversary. The flight attendant and soon-to-be pilot has no plans of going anywhere else.

“I love it here,” said JJ. “SkyWest is my family and I couldn’t be happier.”

To learn how you could become a part of the SkyWest team, check out our Careers page and apply today.

Flying Our Nation’s WWII Veterans

Near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Clint Cawley, a SkyWest Airlines first officer, kicked off a nationwide celebration of WWII Veterans with a very special passenger.

Joining him in a Stearman aircraft was none other than his grandfather, John Glomstad whom he refers to as “Farfar,” meaning grandfather in Norwegian. Farfar served in the Navy during WWII as a 2nd Class Radar Technician.

Farfar’s energy was inspiring. Adding to the excitement of the day, he also shared countless stories and memories from his service.

“My first job choice was to be a radar technician,” said Farfar. “At that time, it was a new rate, and very specialized, it took over a year of training.”

Farfar recalls his role being so new, his fellow sailors did not know what the insignias on his patches meant.

This flight is part of an effort known as Operation September Freedom. For two months, the Dream Flights Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is hosting similar flights across the country to celebrate other WWII Veterans and the contributions they made through their service.

Clint has been a volunteer pilot for the Dream Flights Foundation for three years, flying his own Stearman. This year he and his wife, a fellow pilot, donated the biplane to the foundation.

Renamed the Spirit of The Pacific it will be used to tell the story of the Pacific Theater and used to help honor our nation’s Veterans.

“This is a great event,” said Farfar, “it brings awareness to faith, country, and freedom. Joining the Navy was the experience of my life, and flying with Clint is the culmination of my time in the service,” reflected Farfar.

Thank you to Clint and all those involved in this admirable cause to give back to our nation’s Veterans.

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“She Went Above And Beyond For Us”

During a recent flight from Salt Lake City to Burbank, California, SkyWest Flight Attendant Shannon Dilling Damota was just going about her duties and doing her best to provide excellent customer service during an unfortunate delay. She didn’t think anything of it when she was entertaining kids and passing out snacks.

But to the Kaye family, Shannon’s efforts to take care of them and other passengers was everything they needed after a long and stressful day. The family, including two seven year olds and a two-year-old toddler, started their trip in Idaho but were faced with several delays and flight changes due to some unexpected operational issues at their departing airport.

“It seemed like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” said Mitch Kaye. “Luckily the day was saved thanks to the SkyWest crew, especially Shannon who went above and beyond for us.”

After landing in Salt Lake, the Kaye’s hurried to make their connecting flight to Burbank. Once onboard, the crew had to perform some troubleshooting due to the cabin lights flickering on and off, causing the aircraft to temporarily go dark. Shannon got out her flashlight and was busy keeping everyone entertained.

“When I heard their little girl say, ‘The monsters are coming,’ when the lights went off, I quickly grabbed my flashlight and started doing hand puppets to distract her. We also played peek-a-boo and I danced in the aisle like a fool to help calm everyone down. It worked, so it was worth it,” Shannon said laughing.

Shannon was also able to help the family move into their own row in the back of the aircraft, allowing their youngest to fall asleep on the late flight.

“Shannon went above and beyond for us and helped us get through our trip,” said Mitch. “Despite the delays and plane changes, she provided a great experience and made us appreciate flying. I work at a service department for a dealership and understand things like this happen from time to time and that things break down. For me, it’s how a team handles these situations that can set you apart from the competition and SkyWest was consistent and kept us updated throughout the day. We wouldn’t hesitate using SkyWest again.”

When Shannon received those kind words from the Kaye’s a few days later she couldn’t help but cry knowing her actions helped make a difference.

“They were happy tears,” Shannon said smiling. “It meant so much to me. I was just doing my job and honestly didn’t think anything of it. It just goes to show just how far kindness can go, especially in these chaotic times. You don’t know what someone else is going through and I just try to show kindness and help wherever I can. That’s what it’s all about!”

SkyWest’s team of aviation professionals, including our more than 4,000 flight attendants regularly go out of their way to ensure our passengers have a great travel experience on every flight. If you’re ready to make an impact, join the SkyWest team today.