Color is the Cockpit




"Color is the Cockpit"
 By Corey Johnson  

With the need for qualified pilots to compete with the increase of airplane travel, recruiters are touring schools trying to increase student's awareness of the aviation field. This recruitment effort has become less than effective at minority schools. The problem lies more than just with the recruitment office, but with the entire aviation industry. What causes black to have such poor representation in the aviation field?

The problem starts off early on in the African American community. Their school guidance counselors persuade African American children into pursuing more trade-based jobs. They believe that becoming a pilot is not an obtainable goal for inner city children.

Life also has a tendency of imitating art so the majority African American children grow up wanting to become basketball players and football players. This is because most of them do not hear about courage men like Eugene Jacques Bullard.  Bullard, who was the first African American combat pilot, had over 25 years of flight experience before the famous Tuskegee Airmen.

To date there is only one minority magnet high school for aviation. August Martin High School in Jamaica, New York, (named for the first African American pilot to fly for a commercial airline) was created through the cooperative efforts of the Board of Education, community leaders and the aviation industry in an attempt to boost the number of minority pilots in the field. Another important reason there is a lack of African American pilots is because at most Historically Black College and Universities (H.B.C.U) the aviation field has no representation. Large numbers of African American students enroll in (H.B.C.U) every year, and will not have a chance to pursue careers in aviation because the curriculm is not offered.

The aviation industry has noted the lack of minority faces that they interview and have tried to increase awareness in black communities. Delta Airlines, in conjunction with the Organization for Black Pilots has also embarked  upon a new venture in Atlanta for black youth interested in pursuing careers in aviation. The (ACE) camp is a weeklong summer program for children  ages (14-18). Endeavors like these are steps in the right direction, but should more formable approach be taken in order to increase the numbers of African American pilots?

Why aren't recruiters taking more aggressive steps when pursing minority students for aviation?  At career fairs, aviation schools are not having booths set up at minority schools. If there is a both set up that pertains to aviation is probably would belong to the United States Air Force. Universities also target certain types of students for their aviation programs; those students who are targeted are normally of African American decent.

Another major problem that lends itself to the disparity of African American pilots is lack of expose they have to planes. African American children develop a fear of flying because most of them don't board their first plane until well into their adult years.

This fear reduces the child's probability of  wanting to become a pilot. African American Parents should take their children to the airport and view planes, to lessen their children's fear of flying. Not many Airports are not located in minority areas so the
chances of African American children seeing a plane in person is also very small.

African Americans only make up only 4% of the entire population of commercial airline pilots. African American women pilots make up about 1/4 of this number. The majority of African American women have never heard of  women like Bessie Coleman, who was the first African American female pilot. This courageous woman flew at a time when very few women of any race had a pilot's license. For all Bessie Coleman's achievements she received a commemorative stamp.

Without a stamp for her memory Bessie Coleman would just be another important figure in African American History no one knows about. African American pilots take the same tests and acquire the same ratings, as other pilots due, so why aren't African American pilots hired as frequently as other pilots are. One of the main reason is the lack of networking.  A pilot is a career that has a tendency to run in the family. African Americans are at a disadvantage because a majority of white families
has someone who was a pilot. Once an airline has established a relationship with that pilot, they can refer family members and friends, whom also are pilots.

This referral allows the pilots transition to the workplace much easier. Without having any connections to any of the major airlines, black pilots are commonly looked over for jobs. Most people know about the famous Tuskegee Airmen, very few people know about the struggles they had to endure. From the first graduating class in March 17, 1942 through the last class, which graduated June 29, 1946, a total of 926 pilots earned their wings.

During the war the Tuskegee Airmen faced the contradiction between fight a battle overseas and being denied of their basic civil rights in the country they were fights for. Is this becoming the reality of the modern day Tuskegee Airmen? How can African American pilots increase the numbers in the aviation field? What the pilots must first realize is, that it's not a level playing field.

Although this fact maybe a harsh reality for some, it's never the less reality. African American pilots must attend job fair on a more regular basis. Another important tool that can be used is networking, By joining campus clubs and organizations; African
Americans can make themselves more involved thus creating a more marketable person. Being a pilot isn't for everyone, but once the decision is made to become a pilot African Americans must be aware of the struggles they will face. Becoming a pilots has become based less on the pilots scores, but more on who that pilots resembles.
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