The first Vincentian woman to pilot an American Airlines flight to Argyle International Airport (AIA) says “the pressure was on” to deliver a smooth landing as she flew into her nation’s aviation history on Saturday.
“This is my first time here. The weather was coming in and it wasn’t too bad of a landing,” Rochelle Roach-Lanza told NBC Radio at AIA on Saturday, after landing her flight from Miami.
“I’ve done similar landings to this many times before but the pressure was on. Everybody was expecting a very smooth landing. So, I had to deliver,” said Roach-Lanza, 43, who is originally from Bequia.
Roach-Lanza piloted the American Airline Boeing 737-800 aircraft, flight AA1427, that flew non-stop from Miami to AIA.
She was greeted at the airport by dignitaries, including Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Godwin Friday, who is parliamentary representative for the Northern Grenadines, where Bequia is located.
Roach-Lanza’s mother, Marilyn Roach was also on hand to greet her daughter, as she made history for yet another time.
The pilot, a graduate of St. Joseph’s Convent Kingstown, completed the first year of her A’Level education at the St. Vincent Grammar School.
Then, she went down in history as being among the first batch of students to take classes at the Villa campus of the Community College.
Roach-Lanza, who was an outstanding geography student, was originally interested in becoming a land surveyor, but took up an opportunity to work as an air traffic controller.
She began her career at the E.T. Joshua Airport and also worked at the Union Island and Canouan airports.
While studying in Trinidad and Tobago, she became interested in becoming a pilot and also pursued studies in Canada.
After her graduation, Roach-Lanza flew with regional carriers SVG Air, Caribbean Star and LIAT and also worked as a pilot in Guyana and Nigeria.
Gonsalves described Saturday’s flight as “a moment of pride for the country”, adding, “It may appear to be a small thing but it is of great symbolic significance.”
The prime minister noted at the welcome event at AIA that a Vincentian was pilot of a flight with a major international carrier.
“But, in this case, it’s a young woman who is an accomplished lady, very experienced, a child of our civilisation and she is the first Vincentian woman who is an American Airlines pilot and the first one to be coming here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the prime minister said.
“So, there are many firsts here and it is an inspiration for others, including young women, who want to get into the business of air traffic control, director of civil aviation, a pilot on an international carrier.
“But to do all those things you have to first of all take advantage of the opportunities for primary, secondary and post-secondary education here and do the requisite subjects and have your family involved and it is all of these building blocks that takes us to this particular point… She has done well and we are proud of her.”
Roach-Lanza was presented with a bouquet by a student of Argyle Primary School, which is located near the AIA, and a gifts from the opposition leader as well as Godfred Pompey, chairman of the board of AIA.
This article was edited to clear up any suggestions that Roach-Lanza is an American Airlines captain. She is actually a first officer.