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United Airlines prepares to shake up white, male-dominated pilot population

41 Comments
By Tracy Rucinski

United Airlines said 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 men.

The announcement comes as U.S. airlines resume pilot hiring halted last year during the pandemic and as they find themselves in the crosshairs of politically charged issues involving race.

"We want to make sure that we are tapping into a big deep talent pool and not limiting ourselves to just one section of the pond," Chief Communications Officer Josh Earnest said on a Zoom call with journalists.

Chicago-based United joined Delta Air Lines and American Airlines on Monday in speaking out against voting restrictions following recent legislation in states like Georgia that activist groups say unfairly target Black and other racial minority voters.

United is the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, the United Aviate Academy, which it bought last year just before vanishing demand because of the pandemic forced the industry to scale back its operations.

Now, as more Americans are vaccinated, airlines are ramping up again.

United plans to hire 10,000 pilots by 2030, half coming through its academy, and the rest from other airlines or the U.S. military.

Of United's roughly 12,000 pilots, about 7% are women and 13% people of color, the company said.

There are fewer than 100 black women pilots flying for major airlines, United pilot Carole Hopson said on the call, adding this situation had to change.

Becoming a pilot can be a long and costly pursuit and the company is offering $1.2 million in academy scholarships.

The airline's credit card partner, JPMorgan Chase, will fund another $1.2 million for women and people of color accepted to the academy, which expects to enroll 100 students this year.

United said it hopes the program gives it an advantage in recruiting and training pilots as the industry braces for a wave of retirements at the mandatory age of 65 and after thousands retired early during the pandemic.

© (Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
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I don’t care as long as they are qualified, and not “fast tracked” via some quota system.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

"Fly the Friendly Skies of Politically Correctness".

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Forget safety, lets just make sure we have enough blacks, browns, women, gays and disabled at the controls.

Sorry United, you need the best for the job. If that means 100% white and straight or 100% black and gay, that's who you hire.

10 ( +17 / -7 )

"We want to make sure that we are tapping into a big deep talent pool and not limiting ourselves to just one section of the pond," 

That's not how merit based hiring works. There's no "section of the pond", hiring is non-discriminatory by law already and has been for many decades.

If all the best applicants for the position primarily come from "just one section of the pond", that means they have an advantage due to the abilities required for such a task. Calling for diversity of skin colour or sex at this point is pure narcissistic virtue signalling.

Just like the NBA is 90% blacks because they seem to play basketball better than most, by United's standards they should hire 50% outside that "pond" on the grounds of diversity. But that would never happen. Why?

Because "diversity" in these cases actually means "less white men".

10 ( +13 / -3 )

This is a ridiculous idea. Anyone can be a pilot if they choose to train and learn. Aviation is already color blind. What are you going to do, force people to become pilots?

The world is going insane.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

At the end of the day I don’t care who is at the controls, so long as they have the requisite skills and were hired on merit not the colour of their skin or gender.

@Hillclimber, good analogy about the NBA!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Being a pilot is a very stressful, demanding job that requires skill, knowledge, experience, and natural adeptness. None of these are related to gender, race, nor other persuasion.

Go Woke, Go Broke!

7 ( +13 / -6 )

Welcome aboard, passengers. The captain for your flight today is a visually challenged, vertically disadvantaged intersex person of color who has just passed their flight exams thanks to the joys of standardization. And you'll be pleased to know that all diversity boxes have been ticked.

Sit down, buckle up and hang on!

7 ( +11 / -4 )

...it's simply a human reflection of a tendency to hire those who look and act like you. Good on United to give a nudge to those hiring.

If you knew anything at all about aviation, you'd know that Part 91 and Part 135 operators hire based on hours, ratings and experience. Race or sex doesn't enter into the equation. There has been, and will be, a deficit of qualified pilots in the future. Race and sex is irrelevant.

This is ridiculous pandering to a false narrative.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Peter NeilToday  02:15 pm JST

Aviation is already color blind. What are you going to do, force people to become pilots?

Not force, they will "deny".

They will deny the best applicants based on them already making up 50% of their skin colour/sex quota. This is the actual definition of institutionalised racism. Which is absolutely fine, even warranted, according to some people.

That means, a potentially less qualified person will get the job because they have not filled their (insert race/sex) quota yet, because they are the most qualified in that group. It's easy to see how this entire thing can blow up in United's face.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Incidentally I was just at a flight school in Florida and 99% of the students and instructors are white, and of that about 20% are female. If they want minority pilots they really need to contact kids in high school and show them a path to this career because it is very hard to imagine becoming a pilot if you are an inner city minority kid with no contact with pilots such as friends or family members.

By the way what does people of color mean? Weird term

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This quota stuff never works out.

That Canada's federal government.

For decades now their has been a near total freeze on hiring white men.

The demographics of Canada is roughly 50/50 men/women. 5% Native, 23% visible minorities 5% people with disabilities. For some reason Canada counts Native people in a separate category from other visible minorities)

But over the decades federal employees the only change was that women became over 50% of employees, white males dropped but zero movement in visible minorities or native American.

So in the end white men were replaced by white women that tend to higher more white women and by keeping "women" as a minority hiring category that hasn't changed.

Now white Men are still only hired if no one else applies, the upper management is now majority white women and they hire white women.

Now trying to remove "women" as a minorly category and making it visible minorities women did not go over well and women's groups got really upset and that idea was scrapped. Guess white women didn't like being in the same boat as the men.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'd like to know which airlines simply hire the most qualified pilots.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

This is the most stupidest thing I ever heard, so UA will forgo safety practices for the sake of gender equality? This is just more identity politics madness run amok. Thought by most of the major airliners that safety is the 1st and only priority, so people should be hired based on that set skill and not based on color. It doesn’t matter if you hire people of color to fill a void to make the woke and cancel culture happy, do you meet the stringent qualifications to fly and be responsible for lives of a few hundred people? If applicants fail to meet there prerequisites then they should be disqualified regardless of color.

And before even that, most of the US airliners need to provide cleaner planes, better food and better service, be more punctual and on and on before even considering diving into this stupid issue.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

This is going to scare some regular commenters. You know they aren't comfortable with the idea of women.

No, its going to scare everyone onboard a Boeing 777 at 37000 feet as they enter an unrecoverable stall.

Even the virtue-signaling opponents of meritocracy seated in 32A

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I'd like to know which airlines simply hire the most qualified pilots.

Don't know for sure but KAL pilots are nearly all former military pilots and that training is far far far more rigorous than any civilian school.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

But I will certainly avoid UA if they aren’t hiring pilots off of their abilities purely

Haven't gotten on UA in over 20 years.

The last time was Tokyo/Chicago a month after Swiss Air crashed off of New York due to electric fire.

5 minutes in the air we noticed that 20 rows in the middle had no power, no lights, no music, nothing not even the cabin attendant call button was working.

The crew came by, said " it looks like a short someplace" we thought we would turn back to Narita.

Nope 12 hours no lights nothing all the way to Chicago (remember Swiss Air just crashed due to a fire caused by an electrical short).

UA's idea if compensation was a $25 discount voucher on a full fare ticket on domestic lower 48 continental USA flights.

Never again went near that company and I don't have any confidence that they will care about safety in this case.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Now thats a scary statement. I don’t care what color you are!

But I will certainly avoid UA if they aren’t hiring pilots off of their abilities purely.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I don’t care as long as they are qualified, and not “fast tracked” via some quota system.

That’s pretty much all that needs to be said, Potentially there are lives at stake here.

The usual hysterics about political correctness from some uncannily similar posters are to be expected. Do not let any of these people near a cockpit.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

From my experience, I agree with Reckless. You had better instill a deep love of flying very early in a child's life since to get to a pilot at a large passenger carrier you have to fly thousands of hours at a very, very low pay then get hired as a low payed junior level at the major carrier. My cousin's journey through this path would never have happened if he had not been flying as a teenager and was dead set on flying for a career.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Woke stupidity. How can operating a system of institutional racism help to fight racism?

Racism of any kind is intrinsically inefficient not to mention stupid.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My daughter just reminded me that the second part of the previously mentioned flight was on a small commuter jet on a UA subsidiary.

We were freezing and there was this horrible noise.

The crew said the door seal was broken but "not a safety concern"

When we arrived in Montreal we reported the events to the Canadian authorities who promptly inspected the plane and grounded it for safety issues.

So no way do I trust this company to care about safety and higher the best for the job.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Don't know for sure but KAL pilots are nearly all former military pilots and that training is far far far more rigorous than any civilian school.

Same goes for the US, Japan, South Korea and most Asian countries, you need to have in MOST cases a military background serve so many hours flying in a military jet before flying a commercial airliner. I think in Europe a military background is not a requirement. Again, the ONLY thing that matters is the pilot qualified to fly hundreds of people in the air? The last thing on my mind is the color, race or agenda and as long as you can keep me alive and bring me back to the ground safely, that's the only thing that matters in the end.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you fly to Japan, everyone knows to stay away from United anyway. American run airlines are horrible.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you fly to Japan, everyone knows to stay away from United anyway. American run airlines are horrible

You could always fly Air Koryu !

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Interessant! ))

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why do you feel compelled to take every opportunity to reaffirm that you are a witless, fearful jerk?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

No, I just won’t play this kind of Russian roulette. Good that I’ve learned swimming in elementary school. Now I am finally forced to use it eventually, instead of flying with UA. lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Better hurry up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Same goes for the US, Japan, South Korea and most Asian countries, you need to have in MOST cases a military background serve so many hours flying in a military jet before flying a commercial airliner.

Emphatically not true. There is no such requirement in the FARs. In fact if a person goes into the military through one of their several pilot ascension programs, successfully completes flight training and only stays around for the five years required after completing flight school that pilot won't have anywhere near enough flight hours, especially pilot in command hours that airlines and their insurers look at, to qualify for a seat in any airline. And unless the pilot flew single seat tactical jets a military pilot won't have the solo cross country hours to qualify for a fixed wing license just by taking the written test.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Desert TortoiseToday  03:28 am JST

Not really. It just means their parents had enough money to get them in an aeronautical program

Yes really. You contradicted yourself in the same paragraph.

You said:

It just means their parents had enough money to get them in an aeronautical program.... It costs a lot of money to earn the hours necessary to be hired by even a small commuter airline

And then:

Many of the big foreign air carriers like Lufthansa for example operate their own training academies to train up neophytes as airline pilots precisely because it is so costly for someone to go out on their own and pay for their training out of pocket.

You said it yourself, the airlines themselves subsidise training (100%?) so they can get the best from the pool. This is not about being racially/sexually selective at all...... but United's hiring policy is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

US and European airlines take differing approaches to recruiting and training pilots. In the US the airlines expect candidates to arrive fully trained, certified and ready to fly the aircraft they operate that day if necessary. They won't do any training beyond the very bare minimum necessary for their pilots to maintain their qualifications. How one arrives at that trained state is the individual's problem and often a very costly one. Most spend years as a low paid instructor somewhere building hours until they meet the minimum hours necessary for the airlines or they'll fly airfreight at night for not much more than minimum wage. One of my good friends from the Navy did his 20 years as a pilot, got out and went to work flying a Cessna Caravan for a contractor to FedEx, but even with the Navy retirement it wasn't enough to pay the bills so his wife had to work too. The Europeans by comparison do ab-initio training in house, often at US airports where the weather is better, taking people who have never flown and training them up as airline pilots. They prefer this because these pilots do not arrive in their cockpits with bad habits picked up from their previous flying jobs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One thing the airline could do, is give staff a lesson in manners and friendliness. Yes, I do realize that passengers can also be arses, but scowling at everyone isn't the answer.

Anyway, let's diversify.

No, lets not. I'd like to land safely instead of auger in.

And its apparent your last flying experience in economy was what, 12 years ago on the cheapest possible alternative out of some godforsaken hell hole?

Try flying today on any one of the standard airlines. Its really not that bad.

Sad , broken people will always have sad, broken experiences.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reverse Racism... whatever next, well wouldn't be surprised if blind people not being allowed to fly planes is eventually seen as being anti-discriminatory for those with disabilities !?

It's the fixation upon Colour of one's skin - that's the problem. Today's younger generation are mostly getting the picture, and that will filter through thankfully in times ahead - we shouldn't be pushing aggressively, alternative agenda's as that will inevitably lead to a total mess - let the future younger generation decide their path themselves and let the older ones simply make that possible.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If all the best applicants for the position primarily come from "just one section of the pond", that means they have an advantage due to the abilities required for such a task

Not really. It just means their parents had enough money to get them in an aeronautical program like Embry Riddle University or University of Illinois Institute of Aviation. It costs a lot of money to earn the hours necessary to be hired by even a small commuter airline, hours requirements drive by their insurance. $100 per flight hour is on the low side when fuel and the wage of the instructor are included. Figure most airlines want 1000 flight hours or more before they will even talk to you. Many want 2000 hours "pilot in command", which means the other 2000 hours you flew as co-pilot don't count. Many of the big foreign air carriers like Lufthansa for example operate their own training academies to train up neophytes as airline pilots precisely because it is so costly for someone to go out on their own and pay for their training out of pocket.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Tortoise- It could be that United's plan is simply not to be the worst.

But why focus on social justice? Few will be impressed. But I guess management can pat itself on the back?

By the way, if they are keen to undo some past wrongs, shouldn't they be rolling out the red carpet for elderly Asian males?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

One thing the airline could do, is give staff a lesson in manners and friendliness. Yes, I do realize that passengers can also be arses, but scowling at everyone isn't the answer.

Anyway, let's diversify.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This is going to scare some regular commenters. You know they aren't comfortable with the idea of women.

They're terrified of Meghan Markle, Naomi Osaka, Jacinda Ardern and Brittney Spears. Psychologists could base an entire conference on it!

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

Well, some people are hurt now because others are finally getting the fair shake they deserve after not even being given so much as a look due not being the right color, gender, etc.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Many don't understand how racism/sexism works. It's not always intentional or malicious - it's simply a human reflection of a tendency to hire those who look and act like you. Good on United to give a nudge to those hiring.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Oh no! Not women again!

This is going to scare some regular commenters. You know they aren't comfortable with the idea of women.

-12 ( +5 / -17 )

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