As Black History Month comes to a close, we’re proud to share details about Fly for the Culture, a nonprofit organization launched by GoJet First Officer Courtland Savage, which aims to inspire and expose minority students to pursue careers in aviation. Read more to learn about Fly for the Culture’s mission and how Courtland aims to impact the pilot shortage through diversity.
- What made you want to join the Navy and become a naval aviator?
Aviation became a passion of mine after I took my first flight at the age of 17 years old. I’ve always had a fear of flights and I wanted to conquer my fear. In return, I fell in love with flying and knew it was exactly what I wanted to pursue a career in. I also wanted to serve my country while pursuing my dream. I graduated high school early and joined the Air Force Reserves at the age of 17. I attempted to become a Air Force Pilot initially, but the process was daunting, so I joined the Navy and started immediately.
2. When did you start your civilian flying career?
I began my civilian career at the age of 17. At the time I was working a job to help me make ends meet. When I wasn’t working I flew in my spare time. Before I enlisted in the Air Force Reserves, I received my private pilot’s certificate.
3. Tell us about your educational background. Why did you choose Embry-Riddle?
I attended an Embry-Riddle satellite campus on Charleston AFB while serving as a Crew Chief on C-17s in the Air Force Reserves. It was convenient because I could attend classes after work and on my days off. Embry-Riddle is also considered one of the top aviation and aerospace schools in America, so I thought it would establish a strong foundation for my future as a pilot.
- What led you pick GoJet as your regional airline of choice?
On top of the stellar location options, aircraft, and routes, GoJet’s Rotor Transition Program provided me with amazing support for my transition from military flying to civilian flying. GoJet also helped me obtain the training I needed to become an airline pilot. They’re many pathways programs and the resources they offer pilots sets them apart from other regional airlines. I also enjoy how they work with my schedule regarding my commute. I live in North Carolina, so it’s a short commute from Charlotte to Raleigh, driving or flying. I also enjoy flying from coast to coast.
- What sparked your passion to launch Fly for the Culture?
During my time in the Navy, I was usually the only minority pilot in the squadron. I know there are hundreds of young minority men and women who are interested in aviation, which ultimately inspired me to launch Fly for the Culture. I want to help them pursue opportunities they wouldn’t have thought of.
Additionally, most young minorities are not aware they can become pilots because there is limited outreach in their communities. I started spending my own money to rent small planes and take young kids flying. It’s really amazing to watch how they react when the plane lifts off into the air. You can see on their faces that an entirely new world has been opened-up for them. I know dozens of pilots that say they pursued aviation because someone took them flying when they were younger. For now, I am trying to plant a seed that leads them to a fulfilling and exciting future in aviation. Eventually, I would like to provide scholarships for flight or maintenance training and provide flight training.
- Who does Fly for the Culture aim to assist?
My target audience are young boys and girls from diverse cultural backgrounds, particularly from underprivileged communities. In military and civilian aviation, minorities and women, combined, make up less than 10% of pilots. A diverse community is a strong community and progress on this front can only truly happen with representation. While we do not exclude anyone who is interested in participating, we are particularly interested in helping underprivileged youth by providing them with opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. With an impending pilot shortage, a lack of diversity in the aviation industry, and too many young people with limited opportunities, we see Fly for the Culture as a single solution to many problems at once.
- How does Fly for the Culture bring more diversity to the aviation industry?
We are constantly trying to expand the assistance and support we are able to provide participants. In addition to the dozens of exposure flights for people of all ages, we provide mentoring to young people interested in aviation. We use our networks of pilots to connect people from around the country who are interested in future careers in aviation. We are also in the process of connecting with local flight schools to partner with us and provide flight training for eligible participants. We also would eventually like to establish scholarships to help pay for or at least supplement the high cost of flight training and provide flight training. Someday, we would like to see an expansive network of Fly for the Culture chapters all over the country, performing outreach within their local communities and connecting people all over the world.
- What would you tell a young person who is interested in aviation?
I would tell young people their the top priority should be to focus on school and make wise choices. Learning how to fly is like any other skill. The more you practice, the better you will become. Aviation can be challenging at times and very rewarding. With hard work and determination, anything is possible. Finding the right mentor to provide opportunities and support for you to reach your goals is critical as well.