United is taking a bold step toward the future by becoming the first major U.S. airline to operate its own pilot academy, with the goal of training more women and people of color to fly its planes, according to the New York Times.
The United Aviate Academy in Phoenix expects to have 100 students this year, with a goal of enrolling 5,000 hopeful pilots by 2030. Diversifying the pilot pool in commercial aviation is long overdue. According to the Bureau of Labor, 94% of pilots and aircraft engineers are white men. United Airlines says just 7% of its pilots are women, and 13% are people of color.
United also is making headlines by joining the other major U.S. carriers in condemning Republican-championed legislation that seeks to restrict voting access in states like Georgia and Texas. United issued this statement criticizing attempts to make voting harder.
“Some have questioned the integrity of the nation’s election system and are using it to justify stricter voting procedures, even though numerous studies have found zero credible evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. elections. Legislation that infringes on the right to vote of fellow Americans is wrong. We believe that leaders in both parties should work to protect the rights of eligible voters by making it easier and more convenient for them to cast a ballot and have it counted.”
This news comes as United has begun hiring pilots again as the aviation industry begins its recovery from the pandemic. The company says it hopes the guarantee of a job after graduation would attract many candidates to its pilot school. United plans to diversify its pilots not just through the Aviate Academy, but by hiring people who learned to fly somewhere else.
The airline is teaming up with a trio of historically black universities — Delaware State University, Elizabeth City State University and Hampton University — to help recruit potential candidates. Funding for the school will come from a combination of scholarships, loans and partnerships. Already, United’s credit card partner, JP Morgan Chase, has committed to $1.2 million in scholarships.