Alaska Air Teams Up With University of Maryland Eastern Shore to Diversity Pilot Ranks

Alaska Airlines and its regional carrier Horizon Air announced a ground-breaking initiative to offer financial aid to University of Maryland Eastern Shore undergraduates who aspire to be commercial airline pilots. The Seattle/Tacoma-based companies are launching a program called “True North” that will help top UMES aviation science students afford the considerable cost of completing advanced flight training and pilot ratings necessary to become an airline pilot.

A 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report says 3.4 percent of airline pilots and flight engineers were Black. The leap from being a UMES graduate with a private pilot’s license to becoming a commercial airline-eligible pilot is expensive.

Alaska Air Group will establish a fund to underwrite the cost of advanced flight training for two upperclassmen as they work toward graduation. The formal agreement calls for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air to continue that same level of support in subsequent years for students who qualify to take the place of initial recipients after they graduate.

“Often the barrier to students entering this in-demand, well-paying career is the expense of the flight training,” UMES President Heidi M. Anderson said. “This partnership will ensure any student who comes to UMES and wants to be a pilot, will be able to pursue their course regardless of their financial situation.”

UMES’ True North beneficiaries will work for the university as flight instructors after graduation to build their resumes before moving on to the airlines for five years.

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