Alaska Airlines Launches Program for Aspiring Black Pilots

True North aims to create a direct path for African-American students seeking airline careers.

Alaska Airlines (NYSE: ALK) announced Friday that the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Delaware State University have been chosen as the first schools to participate in the company’s new True North Pilot Pathway Program. 

The program was designed by a group of African-American pilots to make becoming a pilot more accessible and to clear a more direct path for their careers. Both schools are HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities). 

About True North

True North is a development program for future pilots that lends a hand in the training and placement of pilots. As the program launches, it will fund flight lab fees for four students (two from each school), from post-instrument though R-ATP. 

Throughout the program students will have access to internship and mentorship opportunities with Alaska pilots. Students who complete the True North pilot program are offered guaranteed first officer positions with Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines. 

The True North Program has been established to help Alaska meet the carrier’s goal of increasing racial diversity at all levels to 30 percent by 2025.

“Education and opportunity transform the lives of talented young people. I am excited Alaska will help bring brilliant minds and the next generation into aviation,” said Constance von Muehlen, COO of Alaska Airlines. “We look forward to meeting the future of our company through this program.” 

University of Maryland Eastern Shore President Heidi M. Anderson said the program eliminates one of the big hurdles that prospective pilots face.

“Often the barrier to students entering this in-demand, well-paying career is the expense of the flight training,” Anderson said in a statement. “This partnership will ensure any student who comes to UMES and wants to be a pilot, will be able to pursue their course regardless of their financial situation.”

Delaware State aviation program director Lt. Col. Michael Hales agreed.

“This partnership agreement between Del State and Alaska Airlines is an industry game changer,” Hales said in a statement. “For the first time in recent history there is an opportunity for students to have their flight lab fees paid for beginning as early as their sophomore year.”

Alaska Airlines hopes to bring additional schools into the program in the future. The airline said that the program’s first students will be selected early this year. 


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