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United Airlines wants to diversify their pilot program; partners with Hampton University

United Airlines wants to hire more women and people of color to train and hire pilots.

HAMPTON, Va. — United Airlines wants to add more pilots with a focus on inclusion and diversity. Hampton University is making sure more pilots get the job.

Gabrielle Harding dreamed of becoming an airline pilot.

“I became interested in becoming an airline pilot at the age of 15," said Harding. She's a United Airlines 787 first officer pilot, and also a Hampton University graduate who made history.

“I graduated in 1997. At the time I was the only female in the airways science department during the four years which I was there," said Harding.

Harding wants to help others succeed. She’s working with Hampton University to create awareness for a United Airlines new flight school: the Aviate Academy

Hampton University Assistant Professor and retired United Airlines Captain William Franklin helped establish the partnership with United Airlines. 

“One of the things that United has said is that 50 percent of the new hires going forward are going to be women and minorities," said Franklin. 

United Airlines has partnered with three major Historically Black Colleges and Universities to recruit students with a focus on increasing diversity.  

“You ask most people who fly commercially, when have they ever seen a female pilot? When have they ever seen a pilot of color in the cockpit?" said Harding.

Right now, Franklin explained Hampton’s aviation program has about 15 students. He hopes his students follow Harding’s advice.

“No matter what your dreams are, they’re always attainable," said Harding. 

United Airlines wants to train 5,000 pilots by 2030. United Airlines has also established multiple scholarships for students. 

Two other HBCU's -- Delaware State University and Elizabeth City State University -- are partnering with United Airlines for the Aviate Academy.