A new Alaska program aims to bring careers into reach for aspiring BIPOC pilots

Alaska pilots are creating more opportunities for aspiring pilots to achieve their dreams of flying. Photos by Ingrid Barrentine.

Over the past year, a group of Black Alaska pilots got together to find creative ways to make aviation careers more attainable for aspiring pilots.

Led by Ron Limes, an Alaska captain since 1999, the group worked in partnership with their colleagues, peers and leaders from across our company, and today we are excited to launch a new program called True North.

Alaska’s True North program helps students gain the confidence and skills required to fly for a commercial airline once they graduate and offers financial assistance along the way, while also looking to increase the diversity of our industry.

“I have always dreamed of becoming a pilot. While I chose the military route before joining Alaska, I know what a financial burden flight school can be on students and their families,” said Alaska Capt. Ron Limes. “When I became a pilot, I realized how few pilots looked like me. I am excited by this program because it will remove so many barriers – whether that be financial or otherwise – for BIPOC pilots to have full and rewarding careers in aviation.”

Limes shortly after flying Our Commitment plane — a special aircraft meant to spread the word about UNCF and spark conversation around the importance of education, equity and representation.

The program will start with students from two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) – Delaware State University and University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. We hope to expand the program to other schools in the future, as well as broader career opportunities within Alaska.  

What’s included in the program:

  • True North is a persistent pilot development program to source, train and place candidates in entry level aviation roles. 
  • For now, True North will fund four selected students’ flight lab fees from post-instrument rating through R-ATP. 
  • Students enrolled in True North are offered guaranteed first officer positions at Horizon Air – post college graduation, and a confirmed path to  Alaska 
  • Internship and mentorship opportunities with Alaska pilots will be part of the program.

True North will also help us create an inclusive culture at Alaska and Horizon where everyone feels like they belong and can have long rewarding careers. Earlier this year, we committed to increasing our company’s racial diversity at all levels to 30% by 2025.

Captain JP Wilson. Students enrolled in True North are offered guaranteed first officer positions at Horizon Air for two years post college graduation, and Alaska for three years.

The development of True North supports our recent commitment to the HBCU Partnership Challenge, which encourages private companies to partner with historically Black colleges and universities. 

“Education and opportunity transform the lives of talented young people. I am excited Alaska will help bring brilliant minds and the next generation into aviation,” said Constance von Muehlen, COO of Alaska Airlines. “We look forward to meeting the future of our company through this program.”

Interested in flying for Alaska or Horizon, learn more and apply today at https://lnkd.in/gyd_3P6.

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