New Pilot Diversity Initiative Aims to Level Playing Field for Women, People of Color

February 28, 2024

According to the federal bureau of labor statistics, more than 90% of all aircraft pilots are white males. When looking specifically at commercial airline pilots, estimates indicate that fewer than 7% of them are women with only about 1% are women of color. This lack of diversity is part of a significant challenge for the aviation industry, and it’s one that United Airlines is taking on through a new flight school and an ambitious goal for the next decade. 

In early 2022, United Airlines' launched the United Aviate Academy flight school in Goodyear, Arizona. It’s objective? To bring more women and people of color into their cockpits, in part, to better reflect the customers they serve. United recognized that representation of diverse backgrounds and demographics in the cockpit can inspire future generations of pilots from similar backgrounds, hoping that a more diverse pool of pilots now will invite even more in the future. 

The Academy is a critical component of United’s goal to train 5,000 new pilots at the school by 2030, with at least half women or people of color. Roughly 80% of Aviate’s first class supported this goal. To address the significant shortage of commercial airline pilots, the Academy aims to have 500 students in each class. 

Despite a slight improvement from the pandemic peak, the commercial pilot shortage continues due to several factors. An aging workforce with early retirements created a gap in experience. High cost of entry and significant time investments remain a significant barrier for new pilots, while reduced military-to-airline transitions has limited experienced aviators. Increased demand for air travel post-pandemic has further strained the pilot pool, impacting passengers with potential flight disruptions, higher fares, and reduced route options. 

United’s Aviate program is addressing this challenge by pursuing two strategic initiatives: help to fill this shortage with pilots from its own ranks and engage more women and people of color on the path to becoming pilots. United is collaborating with aviation organizations to expand opportunities and lower financial barriers by paying for each student’s private pilot certification and offering additional scholarships and financial aid. They’ve partnered with organizations like the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, the Latino Pilots Association, and the Professional Asian Pilots Association to expand their exposure to a more diverse pool of potential pilots and secure additional funding support. 

Other airlines are following suit. Delta Air Lines expanded its Propel Collegiate Pilot Career Path Program by partnering with Hampton University, a Historically Black College and University in Virginia. Alaska Airlines has committed to hiring more Black female pilots by partnering with Sisters of the Skies, a nonprofit committed to supporting future black aviators through mentorship, professional development, outreach and scholarship. And American Airlines’ Cadet Academy guarantees interviews for cadets who complete flight school training. 

Beyond major airlines’ flight schools, numerous opportunities exist for women and people of color to pursue aviation careers. Part 141 pilot schools are FAA-approved institutions that follow a specific curriculum designed to meet FAA standards, with the structured approach ensuring consistency and thoroughness in pilot training. Others seeking a career in the skies may choose to enlist in the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, or Marine Corps, which provide pilot training and the potential to transition to civilian airlines after their service ends. 

Capitol Technology University offers a bachelor’s degree in Aviation Professional Pilot that can prepare you for a variety of aviation careers with flight expertise, technical skills, and FAA certification. Located in the Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC region –– one of the busiest Class B airspaces in the world –– you can gain hands-on training and individualized coaching from our expert faculty, while also benefiting from our efforts to help you find a job after graduation. 

For more information, contact our Admissions team at