The Sky Can Be More Than a Dream - United Hub

The sky can be more than a dream

Why United Pilot Randall Rochon has made it his mission to introduce more African-American youth to the flight deck.

By Ryan Hood

Ask Randall Rochon about his first flight and you'll come away thinking the plane just arrived at its destination.

How old were you?

"Nine."

Where did you go?

"Lafayette, Louisiana to Houston and then to Seattle. My mom and I went to visit my dad, who was looking at potential new homes in Washington.

"We flew on a Continental ATR."

Wait – you even remember the aircraft type?

"Yes – we flew on a Continental ATR to Houston and then an Airbus 300 to Seattle," he explains. "I asked my mom questions the entire time."

How fast was the plane going down the runway? How does it take off? How high does the plane go? How fast are they going when they land? The nine-year-old boy was fascinated by aviation.

That fascination soon became an obsession, and that obsession eventually became a career. Randall Rochon, a Newark-based Boeing 767 and 757 First Officer, has worked at United for six years, achieving a goal that dated back to those very first flights as a nine-year-old: he wanted to work where it all began.

Randall is extremely grateful for his dream having come true, but he's quick to deflect credit in the direction of others who helped him along the way.

"This industry, aviation, you cannot do this alone," Randall says. "I didn't do it alone."

To start, there's Clovis Jones, then-President of OBAP (Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals) who put a high school-aged Randall in touch with Western Michigan University when searching for a scholarship. Then, there's Tony Dennis, who was Western Michigan's Director of Recruitment at the time, who helped Randall and whom he now considers to be a second father. There are Captains Corey Shepard, Leo Sherman, Donald Turner and Assistant Chief Pilot Ray-Sean Silvera who all mentored him at prior steps in his career. There's retired United Captain Roscoe Edwards, who took him under his wing like a little brother once he arrived at United. The list goes on and on.

These are just some of the many influences that got Randall to where he is today and he is eternally grateful for them all. They're also the reasons he is so passionate about helping the next generation of pilots. He is currently the Vice Chair for OBAP, where he's also the director of the collegiate program, helping aspiring aviators achieve their goals.

"The work I do within and outside of OBAP is important to me because many minorities, especially African-American individuals, look to the skies and dream," Randall says. "They dream about being on that plane in the sky. Their minds wonder about what space is like and they think of what it would be like to travel to a different place. This is what drives me to keep doing what I do. Many of these individuals do not know how to find those answers. I want these young minds to know that there is a whole world out there waiting for them."

In addition to his work with OBAP, he has run ACE Camps in Michigan, New York, St. Croix and St. Thomas over the last six years.

ACE Camps are week-long events that connect high school students with the opportunity to explore a wide variety of aviation careers through hands on projects, tours and flight experience.

"Ever since I got that scholarship at Western Michigan, it's been my mission to give back to the community," Randall says. "We need to continue making minorities aware of this opportunity, because if you can help them achieve that dream, then the world is at their fingertips and the sky has no limit.

"I was fortunate. Aviation has been life-changing for me, so I want to change the lives of others as well."

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