Sarah Cooney

Sarah Cooney, Vice President Sales – Americas, L3Harris Commercial Aviation

Pilot Diversity – Are We Making Progress?

We know there is tremendous growth in air travell that is creating a large demand in the number of pilots required – around 30,000 pilots per year for the next five years if airlines are going to be able to continue to grow at the projected rates.

In order to meet this demand we have been focusing on increasing diversity. There is the need to look beyond the current pilot demographic towards a broader, more diverse group, especially women. It is still the fact that just 6% of the pilot work force globally are women and this is something that we have been trying to change at L3Harris. We need to look where there are obstacles such as access to finance, lack of awareness, or dare I say it, discrimination. The L3Harris Pilot Pathways scheme aims to lower barriers of awareness and financial constraints and encourage pilots from all backgrounds. 

But is this the right thing to do and are we actually making progress? Should we stop focusing on the gender gap and start focusing on targeting the right people with the right merits? How can we ensure that we are putting the right people in the right-hand seat? The number of pilots needed globally does not correlate with the volume of applications. As an industry, we need to start acting on that now by shutting down as many barriers for new pilots as possible. Whether it is a gender barrier, a financial barrier, or something else that we are not yet fully aware. 

What are airlines doing to increase numbers? Can we keep pilots who are experienced on the line longer? What more can we do?