HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Harrisburg nonprofit is dedicated to increasing minority and female participation in aviation careers, with the goal of addressing the pilots and crews growing shortage.
The nonprofit, Pilots with a Purpose, was founded 3 years ago. The organization says less than 6% of the U.S. Pilot aviation workforce and only 8% of U.S. aviation industry pilots are African American or Latino.
The goal is to educate young people about all possible career options in aviation while helping pay for a portion of the education needed based on income.
“I think the important thing that Ed touched on was a lot of them speaking of the inner city, or kids underrepresented. They think careers in aviation are out of touch for them,” said Cargill Aeronautical CEO & President Susan Adams.
21-year-old Alexander Ellerbee grew up in York County. He’s one of the first students to go through the program and found a love for flying at a young age.
“I just remember the first takeoff feeling where you sink into the seat. And that was just a very memorable experience. And ever since then, for every vacation, the favorite part of the vacation has just been getting on the plane back and forth,” said student Alexander Ellerbee.
Ellerbee says becoming a pilot didn’t seem possible for him. But now, his future as a pilot has taken flight.
“My end goal, I want to be an airline pilot,” says Ellerbee.
But this program is more than becoming a pilot.
“We’re talking about the gamut of aviation in general, whether you want to be an airport manager, you want to be a security person, air traffic control, whatever it might be, there are opportunities and there are big opportunities,” said Pilot with a Purpose Co-founder Ed Nielsen.
Nielsen says this program is possible through fundraising events and grants which they are still working on.