Florida Memorial University, one of the few HBCUs with an aviation training program, has started training Black pilots.

Unfortunately, there has always been a lack of Black people in the US aviation industry. Florida Memorial University plans to change this by providing opportunities for black students to join pilot training programs and play their role when the national aviation industry is facing a critical pilot shortage since after the hit of the pandemic.

According to the airplane pilot demographics and statistics reported by Zippia, Black pilots do not make up even 2% of US commercial pilots. Retired pilot Bernard Harrison attested to this scarcity of Black pilots when he talked about his experience of walking into pilot lounges and not seeing another person of color. “Just middle-aged white guys. And everybody’s looking at me like, ‘What are you doing here?’”

There are various reasons behind these low statistics, the high cost of flight schools has recently stopped many Black people from pursuing the profession. Over the years, systematic racism has played a huge role as well. Therefore, Florida Memorial University is counting on the community to come forward to support its aviation program.

William McCormick, the chairman of FMU boards of trustees and an FMU alum, had an interview with NBC where he mentioned that FMU owns a small plane for student training, but the main problem is the flight time cost. A flight school program costs $71,000 to $92,000, depending upon the student’s previously attained training and experience. This cost is too much to be covered by scholarship programs.

The chairman also talked about Captain Barrington Irvin in his interview. He is an FMU alum who holds the record as the youngest pilot to fly 24,600 miles around the world at the age of 23. He said, “We want to be a pipeline for Black pilots,” but lack of finances is a big hurdle.

As planned, FMU has received a positive response from the community. Freddie Figgers, an entrepreneur, founder, and owner of the nation’s only Black-owned telecommunication company, Figger’s Communication, teamed up with a black car dealer magnate and a former pilot, Vince Young, and donated $50,000 to the school’s aviation program.

He said he believed in the FMU’s plan. Frigger encouraged others by saying, “I understand the road to becoming a pilot is long and hard and carries a large price tag. We as a community have to do our part to change the numbers and give our kids a chance to be great.”

Additionally, United Airlines has partnered with three HBCUs; Hampton University, Delaware State University, and Elizabeth City State University. Besides, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Texas Southern University, St. Philips College, and Southern University are also offering great pilot training programs.