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Former US Navy pilot inspires students of color to pursue careers in aviation

Savage founded Fly For The Culture, a nonprofit that aims to introduce young Black children to aviation as a potential career path. (CREDIT: Courtland Savage)

Courtland Savage, a former pilot in the U.S. Navy, noticed a lack of diversity in aviation during his service. "In my squadron, I was one of the two African-Americans," Savage told "Good Morning America."

Upon leaving the Navy in 2018 and becoming a commercial airline pilot, Savage founded Fly For The Culture, a nonprofit in Charlotte, North Carolina. The organization aims to introduce young Black children to aviation as a potential career path.


"I wanted to showcase other African Americans who are pilots so young people could see someone like them and be inspired," Savage said.

Fly for The Culture is a non-profit organization that promotes diversity in the aviation industry, according to its website. (CREDIT: Courtland Savage)

Fly For The Culture offers introductory flights to students, funded by public and corporate donations. These experiences aim to provide insight into piloting and offer support for those interested in pursuing careers in aviation.


"We introduce young kids to introductory flights and take them up for free around Charlotte," Savage explained. "Afterward, we stay connected through social media, mentoring them to pursue a career as a pilot."

Savage, hoping to inspire as a young Black pilot, emphasized the importance of representation.


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"I'm part of the young generation and a person of color," he said. "Sometimes you have to see it to believe it."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, African Americans comprised only 3.6% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers in 2023. Tennessee Garvey, chair of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), highlighted the importance of addressing these disparities.


"Statistics like these underscore the importance of our mission," Garvey said. OBAP has a history of advocating for diversity in aviation and creating opportunities for Black youth.

Courtland alongside one of his younger students. (CREDIT: Courtland Savage)

Savage's journey into aviation began with a bet he made at 17, inspired by the election of President Barack Obama.


"I said if a Black man becomes president, I'll go fly planes," Savage recalled. After Obama's election, he pursued a career in aviation, obtaining his private pilot's license and joining the military.

Throughout his career, Savage has witnessed changes in the industry's diversity, crediting organizations like Sisters of the Skies and OBAP for their efforts. Major airlines such as Delta, United, and American have also implemented diversity initiatives.


Despite progress, Savage believes there's more work to be done, particularly in increasing diversity in upper leadership roles.

"I would like to see more diversity in upper leadership," he said.

To aspiring aviators, Savage offers encouragement. "Just keep going," he said. "It's an amazing career with rewarding benefits."

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