This past summer I proudly represented United Airlines by flying one of our newest Boeing 737 MAX 8s into the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Upon landing, I thought back to the time, 48 years earlier, when my father took me there and snapped a photo of me in front of the Stits Sky Baby—then billed as the world’s smallest aircraft. When I look at these two images side by side, I still feel that 8-year-old girl’s enthusiasm for flight, a budding passion that would take her beyond her wildest imagination.
That young girl would soon discover a world of possibility, one day receiving her own wings, logging more than 18,000 hours of flight time, and even earning a law degree. Most importantly, she would one day be proud to work for an airline dedicated to helping more girls like her become commercial airline pilots.
At United, our purpose of “Connecting People. Uniting the World.” drives each decision we make and reminds us that we are collectively stronger as a global community when we have a diversity of opinion, thought, and experience.
This notion is true across all facets of our airline, and it certainly extends to inclusion and representation on our flight decks.
We firmly believe that our employees should reflect the diverse communities we live in, work in, and serve. That’s why we created the United Aviate Academy, the only flight school owned by a commercial airline, to help break down the financial barriers that limit access to becoming an airline pilot. Why? Because in doing so, we will more seamlessly be able to give you, our loyal customers, the best and safest flying experience possible.
My path to joining United, over 32 years ago, was unconventional. While my introduction into the world of aviation came through my father, my journey to the flight deck was also rooted in my education—from my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, and mathematics, to my graduate degree in aviation safety. I had the privilege of attending college and garnering enough flight hours to meet the standard requirements to get my pilot’s license. Not everyone is as fortunate. That’s why I am dedicated to helping others find their path to this great career.
United’s goal is to train 5,000 pilots in the next decade, more than half of which will be women and people of color. It is an incredible opportunity for our airline to access a huge reservoir of untapped talent and truly create the greatest airline in the history of aviation, by expanding our recruiting efforts and opening the doors of opportunity to those who have dreams of becoming a pilot and one day flying the friendly skies—as that young girl did in Wisconsin many years ago.
Thank you for choosing United, and welcome aboard.
Captain Mary Ann Schaffer
Managing Director & System Chief Pilot
Next Up: United Fosters the Next Generation of Women in Aviation