The program aims to help teenagers discover a career in aviation
STOW, Ohio — While many are taking to the skies for summer travel this season, airlines continue to struggle to recruit enough pilots.
United Airlines CEO mentioned by 2025, there will be a shortage of approximately 34,000 pilots worldwide.
It comes at a time when airlines are also claiming the overwhelming majority of their pilots are white men.
One program hopes to change the industry’s outlook for the future and is accepting applicants for its Cleveland academy this summer.
United pilot Ron McLin is co-director of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals’ ACE Academy, a week-long career day for students from incoming 8th graders to rising seniors in high school.
“We take you behind the scenes of all these different types of jobs: aircraft mechanics, aircraft management, airport management, airport engineers,” McLin said. “We need to motivate these young people to accept jobs in aviation. Otherwise, we will run out of pilots, we will run out of mechanics.
The week-long program is based at Burke Airport in downtown Cleveland, but involves field trips throughout the region, such as at Kent State University Airport, where students can sit in the cockpit and soar through the sky and watch the world beneath their feet.
Alexandra Johnson is a certified flight instructor at Kent State University and also an alumnus of the academy.
“It feels like an industry that’s kind of closed down, but we’re really trying to promote this exposure and let students know that it’s possible no matter where they come from,” she said.
She is one of many people in this industry to thank the program for guiding her and giving her the confidence to thrive in a predominantly white male industry.
“We want to change that face, change that look at the aviation industry,” McLin said. “We have an untapped resource among women and minorities or people of color. My airline, United Airlines, is hiring 70 pilots a week indefinitely.”
“They’re hiring at an incredible rate that’s never been seen before,” Johnson said.
For Kent State junior Elliott Johnson, the program helped remove the stigma of entering what can be an expensive certifications career path and helped show him the reality of his aviation success.
“When I started noticing a gap where there will be a lot of pilots retiring out of college, I saw this as a great opportunity to join the industry and make a difference,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world to fly one of these planes.”
The program here in Cleveland is scheduled to run from June 27 to July 1 and costs $100 per student. register, Click here. The registration deadline is May 31.