Without pilots to fly them, Boeing aircraft would be little more than large and very expensive lawn ornaments. The aerospace giant is helping ensure there will be pilots to fly their aircraft in the future by partnering with aviation organizations that provide scholarships for pilot training.
The organizations include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the Latino Pilots Association (LPA), the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), Sisters of the Skies, and Women in Aviation International (WAI). Boeing is donating $500,000 to fund 25 scholarships, the company announced during the recent EAA AirVenture air show.
“The demand for qualified and diverse pilots remains high at airlines worldwide,” said Ziad Ojakli, executive vice president of government operations at Boeing. “While becoming a pilot provides a lifelong career, access to training remains a barrier to entry for many. These organizations are helping the next generation of pilots realize their full potential while also showing communities that are historically underrepresented in the industry that a future in aviation is possible.”
Said Chris Broom, vice president of commercial training solutions for Boeing Global Services: “We are seeing more women and individuals from diverse backgrounds entering the pilot profession because of the mentorship and guidance that aviation organizations like these provide for early career professionals. The work they’re doing to implement changes needed to remove social and financial barriers to entry are critical.”
The organizations receiving the money are grateful for the opportunity to help members overcome financial obstacles.
“It brings us great joy that Boeing has provided these scholarships to our members,” said Claudia Zapata-Cardone, LPA president, adding that the award will help their members overcome the financial barriers that often keep people from achieving their dreams of flight.
Added Stephanie Kenyon, WAI interim CEO: “WAI members appreciate the longtime scholarship support from the Boeing Company. This year during our WAI2023 conference in Long Beach, California, Boeing provided scholarships for career enhancement, manufacturing skills, and flight training. We know that scholarships change lives and provide our members with the financial resources to continue pursuing their aviation/aerospace dreams. As a nonprofit organization, WAI is thankful for Boeing’s commitment to help train the next generation of female aviators.”
Noted Samantha Whitfield, executive director of the OBAP: “Funding flight training is often one of the greatest barriers for students of color pursuing a pilot career. Scholarship partners like Boeing provide the much-needed support to fuel the careers of aspiring aviators. OBAP is proud to join forces with Boeing as we seek to diversify the aerospace workforce now and in the future.”
Stephanie Grant, a United Airlines first officer and development director and board member of Sisters of the Skies agreed. The organization of professional Black female pilots committed to improving scholarship opportunities, mentorship, professional development, and outreach.
“Being able to support our members through scholarships like this helps offset the high cost of flight school and ultimately see these women become professional pilots,” Grant said. “With less than 200 Black female commercial airline pilots nationwide, we remain focused on increasing this number through the pillars of our mission.”
Mark Baker, president and CEO of the AOPA, said the collaboration with Boeing was “a true embodiment of that spirit and supports our mission of getting more people into the skies.”
Long-term demand for newly qualified aviation personnel remains strong. Boeing projects 602,000 new pilots will be needed to fly and maintain the global commercial fleet over the next 20 years.
In addition to the flight training scholarships, Boeing is also donating $450,000 to Fly Compton, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides minority youth with careers in the aerospace industry.
According to Boeing, the money will be used to increase the number of flight training classes offered to students in Compton and provide them opportunities to explore careers in the field of designing, building, and maintaining airplanes and drones.
“We are grateful for the tremendous support from our partners at Boeing,” said Demetrius Harris, Fly Compton president and executive director. “They continue to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to breaking down barriers for minority youth within the aviation industry. At Fly Compton, we know that lack of exposure, access to resources, and the high cost of flight training prevents underrepresented populations from exploring careers in aviation. We focus on eliminating these barriers to entry, and this funding package from Boeing helps us continue this important work.”