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Historically Black colleges training next-generation pilots

Florida Memorial University encourages diversity in aviation
Posted at 10:53 AM, Sep 23, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It doesn't feel like work for Jorge Guerra as he trains aviation students at Florida Memorial University.

"I just love being around them," Guerra said. "It's something that I look forward to every day," Guerra said.

However, there's a major flaw in the field Guerra chose back in the 1970s.

"This industry, as great as it is, is lacking in diversity," he said.

According to Zippia, only 1.2% of commercial airline pilots in the U.S. are black. That statistic doesn't surprise FMU senior Cephas Pinder.

"When I was growing up, I didn't see too much of people who looked like me on TV or in the cockpit," Pinder said.

"Currently, I'm the only female flying at school," sophomore Sarai Stewart said.

Both Pinder and Stewart said they're witnessing a shift in diversity in aviation.

"I feel that it's very good that now, a lot of Black females are stepping out of that box and starting to show that I can do this, and I will be here," Stewart said.

Florida Memorial University, a historically black university, said since its aviation program started in 1987, they've had approximately 500 graduates of the program, and 85% of them have secured jobs in the industry as airport ground and support staff and commercial airline pilots all over the world.

"Different people from different backgrounds brings other ideas, and it's not just the one single thought process. So, bringing in diversity brings greater ideas and more people contributing to solving some of the problems the industry has," Guerra said.

Pinder might inherit some of those problems in the aviation industry, like pilot shortages, when he graduates next year. Until then, he's focused on his career goals.

"My dream job is to be able to wake up in the morning, walk outside, go to the airport, point at a plane and be able to fly it every day," Pinder said.

Stewart is pursuing a career as a pilot or founder of a private jet company.

Florida Memorial University estimated tuition costs $65,000 for their aviation program, which they pitted as low compared to similar programs with price tags reaching $90,000. FMU said almost all of their aviation students are on scholarship thanks to government assistance and generous community partners.