Black History Month Leaders in Aviation: Loretta McNeir
Global security expert brings a world of experience to local students
Loretta McNeir’s 36-year career in aviation security has taken her to more points around the globe than an international special agent: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Attache in Dakar, Senegal, responsible for an area that included 15 West African countries; Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regional Division Manager of International Civil Aviation Security in Brussels, Belgium, a region representing over 60 countries; TSA's Assistant Director for the Americas, responsible for aviation security regulatory oversight for approximately 100 airports; aviation security planning for the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009; technical advisor for the Pan Am World Games in Dominican Republic in 2007; and project lead for airport security during the 1996 Olympics at the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, just to name a few.
McNeir has also been a regular speaker and presenter on behalf of the TSA at international aviation security forums and conferences in countries within Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and South America.
Since retiring from the Department of Homeland Security in 2015, McNeir has served as a senior advisor for an aviation consulting firm in Washington, D.C., and still finds time to share her global experience with the next generation.
As Chairperson of the Advisory Board for Florida Memorial University’s Aviation Department, McNeir leads the eight-member board of industry professionals at South Florida’s only Historically Black College and University (HBCU). She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum and the Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program in Miami, which inspires, motivates, and empowers at-risk young women to live up to their full potential through a group mentoring program with highly accomplished professional women and scholarship opportunities.
McNeir’s traces her passion for aviation back to her days as a teenager: “In my adolescent years, I would beg my dad to take me to the airport, just to see those airplanes take off and land. Since I lived in Alabama during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and segregation, there were limited places where we were allowed at that time. Hence, my dad was generally very happy to drive me to the airport, to keep me entertained.
At that time of my intense curiosity about airplanes, I could never have imagined that I would not only fly on airplanes, but also work for the TSA and the FAA, and fly to over 77 countries for both work and personal reasons. I believe those early trips to the airport with my dad helped me to form my purpose and my love for aviation. Ironically, two of my sisters also have a great love for aviation: one with 10 years in the Air Force, and the other just finished a 30-plus year career with American Airlines. Since retirement, I’ve continued to expand my extended family by working with Florida Memorial University as Chairperson of the Aviation Department’s Advisory Board. One of my goals in this role is to help the students obtain careers in aviation and find opportunities to soar.”