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Program aims to help expose teens to career in aviation


STOW, Ohio — As many hit the skies for summer travel this season, airlines continue to struggle with staffing enough pilots.

The CEO of United Airlines said by 2025, there will be a shortage of about 34,000 pilots worldwide.

It comes at a time when airlines also say the overwhelming majority of their pilots are white men.

One program hopes to change the industry’s outlook for the future and is accepting applicants for its Cleveland academy this summer.

United pilot Ron McLin serves as co-director for the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals’ ACE Academy, a weeklong career day for students from incoming 8th grade to rising seniors in high school.

“We take you behind the scenes of all these kinds of different jobs: aircraft mechanics, aircraft management, airport management, airport engineers,” McLin said. “We need to motivate these kids to take jobs in aviation. If not, we’re going to run out pilots, we’re going to run out mechanics.”

The weeklong program is based out of downtown Cleveland’s Burke airport, but it involves field trips all over the area such as right at Kent State University Airport, where students can sit in the cockpit and fly in the skies and watch the world under their feet.

Alexandra Johnson is a certified flight instructor at Kent State University, and also an alumnus of the academy.

“It seems like an industry that’s kind of closed off, but we’re really trying to promote that exposure and to let students know it is possible wherever they come from,” she said.

She is one of many in this industry who credits the program for helping guide her and giving her the confidence to thrive in a predominantly white male industry.

“We want to change that face, change that look at the aviation industry,” McLin said. “We have an untapped resource in females and minorities or people of color. My airline, United Airlines, is hiring 70 pilots a week indefinitely.”

“They are hiring at an incredible rate not seen before,” Johnson said.

For Kent State junior Elliott Johnson, the program helped remove the stigma of entering what can be an expensive career path when it comes to certifications and helped show him the reality of him making it in aviation.

“When I started noticing a gap where there’s going to be a lot of pilots retiring when I get out of college, I saw it as a great opportunity to join the industry and make a difference,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world to fly one of these planes.”

The program here in Cleveland is set to run from June 27 to July 1 and costs $100 per student. To sign up, click here. The registration deadline is May 31.



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