How Do I Get My Commercial Pilot's License

How Do I Get My Commercial Pilot's License – United Airlines’ new flight school is training women of color to become pilots. As baby boomers retire, airlines want to lower barriers for women and people of color to fill the pilot ranks.

Ricky Foster is one of 30 members of the inaugural class of the new United Airlines Academy in Arizona. David Schaper/ hide quote

How Do I Get My Commercial Pilot's License

Ricky Foster is one of 30 members of the inaugural class of the new United Airlines Academy in Arizona.

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Sitting comfortably in the cockpit of a Cirrus SR20 small plane, 38-year-old Ricky Foster goes through his pre-flight checklist.

With flight instructor Aiden Zabiegalski by his side, Foster fired up one of the four-seat plane’s engines.

“We’ve got it, we’re all open, so you can go ahead and start,” Zabiegalski, 21, told Foster. “Good luck!”

As the engine roars to life and the propeller begins to spin, he yells, “Good!

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Foster is one of 30 students in the inaugural class of United Airlines’ new flight school at the United Aviate Academy, in Goodyear, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix.

Faced with a severe pilot shortage, airlines are ramping up efforts to recruit a new generation of pilots and in the process are trying to open the door to the cockpit for women and people of color, who have been largely left out of the profession. . .

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 94% of all pilots are male and 93% are white. Narrowing down the spectrum of commercial airline pilots, industry groups estimate that less than 7% of them are women, and only about 1% are women of color.

The majority of pilots are white men, and women of color are still underrepresented on flight decks

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“Historically, they (pilots) are white and either came out of the military or had a family connection to the airline that got them flying, and that’s been the norm for decades,” Allison McKay said. , executive director of Women in Aviation International.

In recent years, the military hasn’t produced as many pilots as it used to, and “We haven’t really done a great job on the civilian side of training pilots to the level that we should,” McKay said.

Still, women, and especially women of color, are often underrepresented in airline rankings, and McKay says the biggest reason for that is exposure. “Most of the pilots you see are white,” he said. “If you don’t feel represented in it (the job), then you might not consider it an option.”

Although he’s only been flying for a few months, Foster looks completely at ease as he guides the plane down the taxiway, onto the runway and into the morning sky. As the sun rises over the horizon to the left, casting long shadows over the mountains, and the full moon still shines in the dark sky to the west, he says, “Nice, huh?

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But becoming a pilot wasn’t something he aspired to until recently. As a girl who grew up in Jamaica, and even after moving to the United States at the age of 18, Foster never dreamed of becoming a pilot. He didn’t think about it while working for a major airline for ten years.

It seemed impossible for her to become a pilot because she had never seen anyone who looked like her – a black woman

“It seemed impossible and impossible because I had never seen a woman who looked like me as a pilot,” says Foster. “When I was working as a flight attendant, I saw black people. Not a single black woman. “I’ve seen white women, but not one black woman pilot in 10 years.”

“It’s hard to visualize when you don’t see examples out there,” Foster added.

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But she befriended other pilots who worked with them and encouraged her to try. When a pilot friend took him on an introductory so-called “discovery flight,” he was hooked.

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“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I want that.’ But I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t afford that,'” she laughs. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m too old to fly, I’m trying to be a pilot.’ But I love him so much!’ “

So she began working out regularly, an “expensive hobby,” she called it, but while raising two children, the costs became too much and she stopped.

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“Aeronautics has always been my dream,” Arroyo said. “It felt like an opportunity, being a woman, being an immigrant, being Latino, you know, (it’s) not something I’ve ever portrayed.”

Arroyo was born and raised in Mexico and moved to California when she was 10 years old. A year or two later she became interested in flying.

“I was 10 or 12 years old when I got on the plane for the first time and it looked amazing. I loved it,” Arroyo said. “I was tired, but I wasn’t just sleeping. I wanted to look out the window, see everything around me. Actually, it was just a surreal experience.”

In high school, he was introduced to aviation, and Arroyo says he wanted to go to airplane school, but it was out of reach.

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The cost of flight school, obtaining a license, and the hours required by the FAA to become a pilot are barriers for women of color.

“If you just look at the local flight schools, it’s about K 100 ($100,000). So that’s a lot of money. “There’s no government support for that, you know.”

The high cost of flight school, getting a pilot’s license, getting the 1,500 hours required by the FAA to become a pilot is one of the biggest obstacles for would-be pilots, and traditional financial aid and student loan programs don’t do it. t cover it.

So with an urgent need to replace retiring pilots and hire enough pilots to meet the growing demand for air travel, airlines are stepping up efforts to break down those barriers while diversifying their pilots.

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Airline executives say it’s not just about addressing the pilot shortage, but also about making sure their flight attendants properly represent the customers they fly with.

Thus, they provide additional scholarships to college pilot programs and flight schools, sometimes guaranteeing jobs for pilots who complete their training. And they work with organizations like WAI, the Association of Professional Black Astronauts, the Latino Pilots Association and the Asian Professional Pilots Association to better support aviation education, training and career opportunities.

Delta Air Lines, for example, has partnered with one of the nation’s top historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hampton University, to add to the airline’s Propel Pilot Fellow Career Program.

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At American Airlines, the Cadet Academy program offers flight school graduates a guaranteed interview at one of three American-owned regional airlines.

But only two airlines have their own flight schools. Republic Airways, a regional airline that flies small, short-haul flights to major airlines under the American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express brands, opened its LIFT Academy in Indianapolis in 2017, offering training that is “less expensive than other pilot training programs, “while giving students a ‘direct path to a job as a pilot with Republic Airlines.’

United is the first major airline to have its own flight school and aims to have half its applicants be women or people of color.

United is the first major airline to have its own flight school, opening the Aviation Academy in December. The airline says 80% of first class, of which Foster and Arroyo are a part, are women or people of color, as United says it is committed to ensuring that at least half of Aviate’s pilot candidates are women or people of color.

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To help offset the high cost of pilot training, United will pay for each student’s first private pilot certificate, which costs more than $17,000.

To help cover the entire $70,000 cost of flight training, United is helping provide scholarships and other forms of financial aid; and will help students obtain credit by securing employment with one of United’s regional airlines upon completion of the program.

Jimena Perez Arroyo says pilot training is hard work and learning to fly can be “nervous,” but she finds the experience empowering her overall.

“It shows that it doesn’t matter what your background is, whether you’re a woman, whether you grow up with the same opportunities that other people around you do now,” Arroyo said.

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