Tremaine Johnson who goes to school at Florida Memorial University is training to become one of few black pilots.
Airlines around the country have been experiencing a pilot shortage due to the pandemic. Johnson’s decision to become a pilot is at the perfect time.
Johnson thinks back to the exact moment he knew he wanted to become a pilot. “I could feel us going up and up” he remembered back to his flight in Ohio. “I felt an adrenaline rush.”
After a few mins he heard the captain announce that they were cruising at 30,000 feet.
“At first, I was thinking, ‘I gotta get off this thing.’ But the pilot hit the thrust and we just started climbing up in the air. I saw the whole Miami below me. I saw the houses get smaller and smaller. I saw the ocean. It was another world up there. And that’s when my curiosity became strong.,” Johnson said.
Florida Memorial is one of few HBCUs with an aviation program. Memorial alumni, Capt. Barrington Irving once held the record as the youngest person to fly the 24,600-mile trip around the world when he was 23 years old. William Mccormik, chairman of Florida Memorial University’s board of trustees is confident that there are many more captains on campus. “But the biggest problem is that flight school is expensive,” McCormick said.
McCormick says that even for an experienced student awarded a $10,000 scholarship to the Red Tail Flight Academy. That is still a hefty price to pay.
“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.”
Local inventor Freddie Figgers teamed up with Black car dealership magnate Vince Young to donate $50,000 to Florida Memorial University’s aviation program. Thanks to them those students will have a chance in aviation. “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.”