Florida Memorial University is one of the few HBCUs that provide an aviation program.
According to Zippia, Black pilots make up less than 2% of commercial pilots nationwide and FMU is seeking to change that.
During an interview with NBC News, the chairman of Florida Memorial University’s board of trustees and an FMU alum, William McCormick noted how a Florida Memorial alum, Capt. Barrington Irving once held the record as the youngest person to fly around the world at 23 years old. They are looking to produce more Black pilots like Irving, but finances raise an issue.
According to ATP Flight School, a flight school program for an experienced student costs $71,000 and may cost as high as $91,995 for a student with no experience. This is why McCormick stresses the importance of community support and partnerships.
“A lot of kids who don’t look like me can come to the program because they can afford to pay for flight time,” McCormick said. “We have to fix that so our students from an HBCU can join the program with ease, too. We want to be a pipeline for Black pilots just like we did with teachers and principals. But we need partnerships with people who care” McCormick told NBC News
McCormick found the community support he was looking for in Freddie Figgers, owner of Figgers Communication, the nation’s only Black-owned telecommunications. Figgers teamed up with Vince Young, a Black car dealership mogul, and former pilot, to donate $50,000 to FMU’s aviation program.
“When I learned about how outstanding the aviation program is at Florida Memorial, we at the [Figgers] Foundation felt the need to help,” said Figgers. “I understand the road to becoming a pilot is long and hard and carries a large price tag, and we as a community have to do our part to change the numbers and give our kids a chance to be great.”
As a former pilot Young highlighted the importance of aviation. “Having something to hang on to like aviation really allows you to discover that there are no ceilings and that you can keep growing” He said. “It just makes you so much better, more focused, and more skilled at everything you do.”
McCormick has high hopes for the future of the aviation program at FMU.
“We have young people who are very interested in this field,” he said. “The hope is that the airlines will partner with us and increase the chances of our students getting in and through flight school.”