The number of Americans traveling via commercial airlines each year may be increasing rapidly, but the aviation industry has a problem on the horizon: a shortage of pilots. Boeing recently conducted its Pilot and Technician Outlook for the years 2017-2036, and its findings are astonishing.
In addition to 800,000 cabin crew and 600,000 maintenance technicians, the study projected that the aviation field will need more than half a million new commercial airline pilots to fly the new airplanes entering the world fleet over the next 20 years.
Tuskegee Next is seeking to prepare a few of those pilots from the ground up – literally and metaphorically. Providing an intense, eight-week aviation course that allows graduates to receive a pilot’s license, the organization is doing more than helping solve the pilot shortage. It’s giving its cadets an opportunity to legally operate an aircraft before most even have a driver’s license.
The idea came from Steve Davis, chairman of the DuPage County Airport Authority Board in Chicago. With a large population of youth living in poverty in his Chicagoland area, Davis wondered how he could provide opportunities for African American teens. He wanted to reconcile the problems he saw within his community with the growing need for careers in the skies.
He took a cue from the Tuskegee Airmen of the World War II era to develop his solution.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of African Americans trained to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The nearly 1,000 Airmen flew in pursuit squadrons on overseas missions from 1941-1946. Despite continuing segregation and racism, the group became one of the most highly awarded fighter groups of World War II.
Honoring the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, Davis founded Tuskegee Next. Its mission: to “transform the lives of at risk youth through aviation education and career path opportunities, so they can transform their communities.”
The program, which provides models for flight training, life skills, and educational assistance, empowers graduates with purpose. Cadets are able to “soar into the future” with careers as pilots or professionals within the aviation industry. They are transforming their lives, the skies and their communities.
Tuskegee Next has 22 graduates so far, but is aiming higher. Its goal is to have graduated 100 pilots by 2025.
Through strategic partnerships and sponsorships, Tuskegee Next is providing funding for every cadet in the program. Donations can be made at TuskegeeNext.org/donate.
Learn more about Tuskegee Next by visiting TuskegeeNext.org.