April 6 (UPI) -- United Airlines began accepting applications Tuesday as part of a plan to train 5,000 new pilots by 2030, at least half of whom will be women and people of color.
The airline announced a year ago that it had bought a flight school, United Aviate Academy in Phoenix, and expects to enroll 100 students in 2021. Training programs had been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 7% of United's more than 12,000 pilots are presently women and 13% are people of color, the airline said.
United has partnered with Sallie Mae to offer student loans to ensure that no eligible applicants are turned away for financial reasons. United did not provide information on the cost to attend the flight academy.
United also said it will fund $1.2 million in scholarships to "break down" financial barriers that have limited access for "generations of women and people of color." JPMorgan Chase is also kicking in $1.2 million for scholarships.
United says it typically takes a student about five years from starting flight school to landing a job at the airline. The flight school, it says, provides training to pilots with limited or no experience.
"Over the next decade, United will train 5,000 pilots who will be guaranteed a job," United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement Tuesday.
"And our plan is for half of them to be women and people of color."
United has said it will begin with 300 candidates whose hiring process was halted by the pandemic.
The first class of 20 pilots will begin in July and they are expected to graduate in the first half of 2022, United said. Airlines have ramped up pilot recruitment in recent years as more aviators reach the federally mandated retirement age of 65.
United plans to work with groups like the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Latino Pilots Association, Professional Asian Pilots Association and Sisters of the Skies to identify qualified candidates.