A program exposes Black, brown youth to aviation careers, allowing them to soar to new heights

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Diversity: Compton program teaches Black and brown youth to fly

Pilot Jonathan Strickland instructs student Marquis Crockett. Fly Compton trains young Black and brown students from Compton, California, to become pilots in an effort to increase diversity in a mostly white industry.

By Sherri McGee McCovey

Special to USA Today

  • A program in Compton California is training Black and Brown youths how to fly.
  • People of color represent less than 3% of all aircraft pilots and fight engineers in aviation.
  • The program plans to soon offer lessons in financial literacy, drones and mechanics.

Demetrius Harris still remembers boarding a commercial flight and being greeted by two African American pilots in the cockpit.

“There was something powerful about seeing two people that looked like me doing extraordinary things,” he says.  

That flight inspired Harris to follow a lifelong dream of becoming a professional pilot. Today, he’s a contract pilot for a private owner, flying Gulfstream GIV and Hawker 800XP aircraft. And he’s passing his knowledge on. 

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