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The Aviation Industry Has A Pilot Shortage And Diversity Problem. This HBCU Could Change That
One thing that’s clear when traveling in this current climate is that the aviation industry needs more people to address the pilot shortage.
As the demand for travel increased in 2021 and 2022, the lack of pilots was apparent as airlines canceled thousands of flights over the summer. The main reason? Staffing shortages.
Unfortunately, travel may get worse before it gets better. There are at least 8,000 pilots needed for 2022 alone. That gap, however, is expected to grow to 29,000 by the decade’s end.
Major airlines including Delta and United are getting more strategic when hiring more pilots to prevent further chaos.
United announced it would open its own flight school to help with the shortage.
Meanwhile, Delta recently partnered with Wheels Up, one of the largest private aviation companies in the world, to train and hire 2,400 pilots for Delta’s pipeline.
Delta also recently partnered with Hampton University to train the next generation of Black pilots. Hampton became the first HBCU to join Delta’s Propel Collegiate Pilot Career Path program in hopes of addressing the pilot shortage and diversity problem in the aviation industry. Data from Zippia show that less than 3 percent of commercial airline pilots identify as Black.
And as airlines take matters into their own hands, HBCUs are, too.
Florida Memorial University Has Entered The Group Chat
Florida Memorial University is one of few HBCUs in the country with an aviation program, as NBC News reports.
“We want to be a pipeline for Black pilots,” says William McCormick, chairman of Florida Memorial University’s board of trustees.
McCormick, an FMU graduate himself, acknowledges that costs can be a significant hurdle for students. Flight school programs can cost about $70,000 for experienced students but even more for students without prior training. That’s why school leaders are counting on community partnerships.
One partnership that has come through is the one between local inventor Freddie Figgers and Black car dealership owner Vince Young. The men donated a reported $50,000 to the aviation program.
“When I learned about how outstanding the aviation program is at Florida Memorial […] we felt the need to help,” says Figgers.
Figgers is the owner of the nation’s only Black-owned telecommunications company. He adds, “I understand the road to becoming a pilot is long and hard and carries a large price tag. We as a community have to do our part to change the numbers and give our kids a chance to be great.”
Related: Straight Out Of Compton: The Aviation Program Creating Opportunities For Future Black Pilots