Black History Month Leaders in Aviation: Darrell Roberts
Clearing young aviation professionals for smooth takeoffs and landings
Despite 43 years of service with the Federal Aviation Administration and an accomplished career in the aviation industry, Darrell Roberts feels that his greatest achievement is his outreach to Miami-Dade County’s youth.
I call our youth the future of today, and I know that if we can reach them, they can attain the same things I have and even more.
Raised in Miami’s Liberty City area and a graduate of Miami Northwestern Senior High, Roberts went on to earn an associate’s degree in electronics technology from Miami Dade College's EIG-Watson School of Aviation Air Traffic Control program. After graduation, he went straight to work with the FAA, and later served in several management and policy positions. Until he retired in 2017, Roberts served as the Technical Operations Manager of the FAA’s Air Traffic Control Division for the South Florida area.
Along the way, he has repaid the community and industry he loves by inspiring young people to shoot for the stars in the aviation industry. In 2011, he founded Operation SAFEE (South Florida Aviators Fly-in and Educational Expo) Flight, the educational program where he continues to serve as Chairman. Among many programs, Operation SAFEE hosts a two-day expo every May at Miami-Opa locka Executive Airport that provides interactive programs for local students, educators and the general public on day one. The next day welcomes pilots to fly-in with their aircraft and the community to drive-in for the experience. In total, the various Operation SAFEE camps and events have introduced nearly 30,000 local students to career opportunities in aviation. He also works with the FAA Invest in Mentoring internship (FAIM) and Rising Above My Plateau (RAMP), which encourages young women to consider careers in transportation.
For his lifetime of community outreach, Roberts has earned numerous professional and service accolades, including: The Exemplary Dade Partners Award in 2014; Miami magazine’s Best of Miami for transportation in 2012; the National Black Coalition of FAA Employees Ronald E. McNair Award for advocacy in aviation; and a special recognition from President Barack Obama for the advancement of STEM education. Roberts is also an ordained minister and has been married to his wife, Vivian, for 39 years. He has six children and 10 grandchildren.
It goes without saying that Roberts is a big believer in the power of leadership:
A leader’s job is to tap it, not cap it. We all have talents, and I want to help those I work with and mentor to reach their greatest potential.