Airlines struggling with shortages want to recruit more diverse pilots. This HBCU could be a solution.


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By Curtis Bunn, NBC News

Tremaine Johnson described flying as an adrenaline rush. (Courtesy Tramaine Johnson)

At Florida Memorial University, a small historically Black university in Miami Gardens, Tremaine Johnson is training to become one of the country’s few Black pilots.

Less than 2% of commercial airline pilots are Black, according to one report, making Johnson’s decision to become a pilot — rather than an air traffic controller, as he’d originally intended — notable. His choice also comes at a particularly crucial time, as airlines around the country experience a pilot shortage due to cutbacks during the pandemic.

At 21-years-old Johnson still remembers the exact moment that inspired his career change: It was when he flew in a plane for the first time last year.

“I could feel us going up and up,” Johnson recalled about his flight to Ohio. “I felt an adrenaline rush.”


Suddenly, the small plane at Florida Memorial University he’d walked by for years as a student took on new meaning. Florida Memorial is one of a few HBCUs with an aviation program. William McCormick, chairman of Florida Memorial University’s board of trustees and a FMU graduate, proudly shared that a Florida Memorial alum, Capt. Barrington Irving, once held the record as the youngest person, at 23, to fly the 24,600-mile trip around the world. McCormick is confident  there are other Irvings on campus.

Read about how Florida Memorial University is taking advantage of this opportunity.

Jobs like this and those in tech could potentially decrease the racial pay gap.

More breaking news.

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