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United Airlines pushes for pilot diversity at Phoenix flight school

(AP Photo, File)

PHOENIX – United Airlines announced Tuesday it has begun accepting applications to its pilot-training academy in Phoenix and is pushing for diversity.

The air carrier said it planned to train 5,000 pilots by 2030 at the United Aviate Academy at the Deer Valley Airport, and hoped half would be women or minorities.

“Over the next decade, United will train 5,000 pilots who will be guaranteed a job with United, after they complete the requirements of the Aviate program – and our plan is for half of them to be women and people of color,” airline CEO Scott Kirby said in a press release.

United said about 7% of its pilots are women and 13% are people of color.

The airline, facing a shortage of pilots in the near term, bought Westwind School of Aeronautics last year.

The Chicago-based airline also said students without any flying experience would be accepted to the training program.

More than $2 million combined in scholarships is available from United and partner JP Morgan Chase.

United said recruiters would reach out to groups it has ties with – Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Sisters of the Skies, the Latino Pilots Association and the Professional Asian Pilots Association – to find candidates.

The academy expects about 100 to enroll this year.

Kirby said training will be rigorous “and even more focused on safety and preparing people to become commercial airline pilots instead of just pilots of their own airplanes.”

Students can earn a basic pilot’s license after two months and could qualify to fly for United within five years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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