© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop
By Tracy Rucinski CHICAGO (Reuters) – United Airlines said Tuesday it wants women and people of color to make up at least half of the 5,000 pilots it plans to train this decade at its new flight school, a push to diversify a career. traditionally dominated by white males. The announcement comes as US airlines resume hiring pilots that were halted last year during the pandemic and find themselves in the crosshairs of politically charged issues related to race. “We want to make sure we tap into a great pool of talent and not limit ourselves to just one section of the pond,” Communications Director Josh Earnest said in a Zoom call with reporters. Chicago-based United joined Delta Air Lines (NYSE 🙂 and American Airlines (NASDAQ 🙂 on Monday to speak out against voting restrictions following recent legislation in states like Georgia that, according to groups of activists unfairly target black and other racial minority voters. United is the only major U.S. airline to have a flight school, United Aviate Academy, which it bought last year just before demand disappeared due to the pandemic that forced the industry to downsize its operations. Now, as more Americans get vaccinated, airlines are on the rise again. United plans to hire 10,000 pilots by 2030, half through its academy and the rest from other airlines or the US military. Of United’s roughly 12,000 pilots, about 7% are women and 13% are people of color, the company said. There are fewer than 100 black female pilots flying for major airlines, United pilot Carole Hopson said on the call, adding that this situation had to change. Becoming a pilot can be a long and expensive quest and the company offers $ 1.2 million in academic scholarships. The airline’s credit card partner, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE :), will fund another $ 1.2 million for women and people of color accepted into the academy, which hopes to enroll 100 students this year. United said it hopes the program will give it a head start in pilot recruitment and training as the industry prepares for a wave of retirements at the mandatory age of 65 and after thousands retired early during the pandemic.