In an exclusive interview with People Chica, pilot Natalie Villalpando dishes on what she hopes the future of aviation will look like.
Natalie Villalpando is soaring to new heights. The aspiring pilot grew up in an aviation-focused family of pilots and aerospace engineers and is hoping to continue her family's legacy as part of the United Aviate Academy's first class, which is made up of 80% women or BIPOC.
"I thought for a while I was only going to be a passenger my whole life," she tells People Chica. "Then, when United opened this academy, it was a once in a lifetime chance that I had to take."
United's Aviate Academy is a training program designed to encourage more women and people of color to take to the skies
Saying that the aviation industry is dominated by white men is a huge understatement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5 percent of pilots are women, and 6 percent are people of color.
For many like Ms. Percy, piloting has long been or seemed out of reach. Few women and people of color aspire to fly planes because they rarely see themselves in today’s flight decks. The cost of training and the toll of discrimination can be discouraging, too. Now there’s urgency for the industry to act. Pilots are in short supply, and if airlines want to make the most of the thriving recovery from the pandemic, they will have to learn to foster lasting change.