BRITISH Airways is picking up the £100,000 cost of becoming a pilot for 60 applicants a year – making a cockpit career a dream for all.
The airline yesterday committed to a £6m annual bill to increase diversity among its flight crew.
And rivals such as Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Ryanair are urged to follow suit to transform the look of the industry’s flying community.
Simon Cheadle, 42, the airline’s Director of Flight Ops, told The Sun yesterday: “With this fantastic funding we’re levelling the playing field to encourage anyone from lower socio-economic groups to achieve their dreams of becoming a pilot.
“Previously the industry may only have looked at academic qualifications, and whether people can pay their way, or get a grant.
"But now it's not a question of wealth, and no A-levels or degree is required. Leadership and communication skills, and how people deal under pressure, is equally important.”
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The senior Captain, BA’s Chief Pilot, who joined the airline in 2007, went on: “With rival airlines copying us, we will change the look of the cockpit forever.”
Hannah Vaughan, 32, is one of just 6% of women pilots currently flying commercial jets – a shocking percentage set to soar thanks to BA’s initiative.
In a £5m flight simulator at BA’s Heathrow flight training base yesterday, BA’s Senior First Officer and former cadet told us: “Funding pilot training opens up the job to anyone. It is so important this is happening.
“It was wrong that someone dreaming of 'getting their wings' could not achieve their goal because of the size of their bank balance.”
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Sheffield-based Hannah told The Sun she wants everyone to have the chance to share the joy she gets from flying.
Her proudest moment as a girl from the ‘Steel City’ was flying to Pittsburgh in the US – the centre of America’s steel industry.
She said: “I’m really proud to be flying for an airline offering this opportunity and would urge anyone who is interested in a highly rewarding career flying to destinations around the world to apply. My jealous friends are already talking about switching their careers to fly with BA.”
BA’s Speedbird Pilot Academy is open for applicants today for anyone with a minimum six GCSEs aged between 18 and 55.
Airline bosses are working with community groups to ensure all ethnicities and underprivileged individuals get a chance to achieve their cockpit goal.
Successful recruits will also have accommodation and food costs covered during their 16-month training period, making it the only airline scheme that removes all associated costs from the individual.
The wannabe 60 selected pilots will start training next year and be flying with BA by the end of 2025.
BA cadets join the airline on £34,000 a year, plus an allowance of around £11,000, after training in flight schools in Gloucestershire, Florida and Spain.
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Pilots move on to become First Officers on BA’s short-haul network before qualifying as £100,000-a-year plus Captains.
Sean Doyle, BA’s Chief Executive, said: “The Speedbird Pilot Academy will make the ambition of becoming a British Airways pilot a reality for people who’d previously written the option off because of the cost barrier.”
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