HAMPTON, Va. – Hampton University and Elizabeth City State University are part of United Airlines' first commercial pilot development program partnering with historically Black colleges and universities.
United Airlines expects its Aviate Academy to create opportunities for thousands of minorities. It aims to train 5,000 new pilots by 2030, with the goal that at least half of them are women and people of color.
William Franklin is a retired United Airlines pilot and a professor in the aviation department of Hampton University’s School of Engineering and Technology.
“It’s something I’m glad to see and I think it’s long overdue, and I’m happy to say my former employer, United Airlines, is stepping up to the plate to do this,” stated Franklin. “Minorities and women have been so underrepresented in the pilot field in the past.”
Hampton offers three tracks of aviation studies: Two in aviation management and one in flight education/piloting. Students are currently taking classes virtually.
Professor Franklin said they partner with Rick Aviation, a flight school operating out of Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. Some students who live nearby are continuing their hands-on training there. Others who live out of the area are working with their closest airport.
“Most of them live close enough to an airport where they can continue their flight training, progress and get current,” Franklin explained. “And when they return next fall - fingers crossed everybody’s going to be back on campus in the fall - they’ll pick up their flight training and not have any loss in between.”
United’s Aviate Academy will select students to train.
“Even though they are still here in college, they are basically guaranteed a job with United Airlines as long as they maintain a good record of safety and performance and they build up their flight hours,” said Franklin. “What it does is it provides a path forward.”
Professor Franklin feels confident it will help grow the aviation department at Hampton University. He called it a win-win situation.
“It’s going to be good for Hampton University, and it will be good for the City of Hampton and the local area because we’ll be bringing in more students into Hampton who want to be aviators, and more students means more local economic development for the area.”