Future of the Profession

Promoting an Accessible Piloting Profession

Highly skilled and well-trained airline pilots play a critical role in the safe completion of every passenger and cargo airline flight. Attracting the best and the brightest to join the ranks of today’s professional airline pilots has been a priority ALPA initiative for decades. We are continuously seeking ways to attract those who never thought a career in aviation was accessible. No one is more committed to ensuring there is a robust pipeline of qualified airline pilots than ALPA.

Through a multipronged approach, our members conduct outreach in schools and universities throughout the United States and Canada and maintain the Cleared to Dream website with resources for aspiring aviators. ALPA volunteers visit elementary, middle, and high schools to educate students about the rewards of piloting commercial aircraft. We strive to inspire the next generation of pilots through discussion of technology, innovation, and the myriad of benefits of choosing this career.

Our efforts to promote the profession also extend to colleges and universities throughout North America. ALPA pilots interact with students who are enrolled in university flight-training programs to share insights into what flight students can expect when they begin their commercial flying career. The number of universities participating in some type of ALPA mentorship program is growing each year.

In 2016, ALPA initiated Aviation Works 4 U—an effort with other aviation industry organizations to jointly promote aviation professions, including air traffic controller, aircraft dispatcher, flight attendant, and aircraft maintenance technician. We view the pilot profession as one of many viable options for those selecting a career, and the aviation industry should not be overlooked as an industry of choice.

Accessible Student Loan Options for Affordable Pilot Career Paths

Becoming a pilot continues to be one of the most expensive career paths. These costs have long been a barrier for many individuals. ALPA has been working with Congress over many years to make this process easier and more attainable, without cutting corners when it comes to safety. Accessing options for future pilots to get financial assistance is cumbersome, convoluted, and opaque.

One problem is a lack of coherent information for prospective pilots on what funding options are available. In most cases, these funding mechanisms are subsidized or unsubsidized loans for students pursuing a two-or four-year degree.

It should be incumbent on the federal government to clearly outline the process and procedures available to prospective pilots on what financial assistance options are available to them, for example:

  • Will the loans be subsidized or unsubsidized?
  • How will loan repayment be handled?
  • Will the loans cover the cost of flight training?
  • Will any forbearance be allowed once a pilot completes flight school but hasn’t yet found a job?
  • What happens if the salary for a first-year pilot is not enough to cover the debt accrued for a degree and flight school?

Further, federal student loans for flight training should be available for students in an aviation-related program pursuing a degree from an accredited two-year college or four-year university.

Diversity and Inclusion in Aviation

ALPA is committed to ensuring an accessible career path for those interested in pursuing a career in aviation. A strong workforce is critical to the continued leadership of the aviation industry in the United States, and the strength of that workforce depends on the full utilization of the talents and abilities of a diverse workforce.

For example, today, women make up over 50 percent of the national workforce, but are significantly underrepresented in the aviation industry, making up only 2 percent of airline mechanics, 4 percent of flight engineers, 5 percent of repair workers, 26 percent of air traffic controllers, 18 percent of flight dispatchers, and 6 percent of airline pilots.

Over the years, Congress has supported legislation that seeks to improve and strengthen the diversity of the aviation workforce. Bipartisan legislation included in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018, the Promoting Women in the Aviation Workforce Act, aims to promote and encourage women to enter the aviation field by creating an Advisory Board at the FAA composed of industry leaders. This Advisory Board, on which ALPA has representation, seeks to foster an open dialogue on ways to improve the pathways of education, training, and recruitment of women in this growing field.

ALPA also prioritizes fostering diversity and opportunities for underrepresented groups through our work with schools; pilot associations such as the National Gay Pilots Association, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, and Women in Aviation; and mentor programs. In addition, ALPA has created the President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, which seeks to empower and strengthen diversity in the aviation industry.

ALPA currently serves as the pilot representative on the FAA Advisory Board, and we look forward to working with the Biden administration to facilitate an open dialogue on this important issue.

ALPA’s Recommendations

  • The federal government should ensure assistance and opportunities to pursue careers as pilots are accessible by developing clear and concise guidelines for what options are available to prospective pilots of all backgrounds and income levels.
  • Federal student loans should be extended to flight training associated with an aviation-related degree program at accredited two-year college and four-year university institutions under the Higher Education Act.
  • The government should prioritize expanding and supporting education and outreach programs to promote and foster diversity in aviation careers.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation should implement recommendations from the Women in Aviation Advisory Board, including adoption of inclusive language within the FAA and other agencies.
  • The FAA should implement strategies to identify and address biases in programs, policies, and practices to ensure current and future aviation employees feel welcomed in the profession, including creating a reporting system that will allow employees to submit issues experienced in their workplace to build on the inclusivity of the aviation environment.