On Tuesday, United—the only major U.S. airline with its own flight school, United Aviate Academy—announced its plan to train 5,000 new pilots by 2030. The airline wants at least half of the pilots to be women and people of color.
In an interview with CBS, United CEO Scott Kirby explained that his company wanted to increase diversity among its pilots because only 7 percent of the airline’s pilots are female and only 13 percent aren’t white.
On Wednesday’s installment of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson said, “Safety is no longer that airline’s top concern—identity politics is.”
“The way people look is totally irrelevant. How they perform is all you should care about. Once you forget that, airplanes tend to crash…. Hiring on the basis of irrelevant criteria will, over time, get people killed, and it will,” he said. “We have to fight for the colorblind meritocracy for real. I mean, our lives depend on meritocracy.”
Carlson called United’s initiative “a combination of a hyper-aggressive corporate HR department and a left-wing political action committee… big on moral pronouncements and mandatory social engineering.”
In a statement released on Twitter, United announced, “All the highly qualified candidates we accept into the academy, regardless of race or sex, will have met or exceeded the standards we set for admittance.”
However, Carlson said that the company was lying.
“We know they’re lying and you know it too,” he said, “because in the airline business there is only one standard that matters, and it is not race, and it’s not gender. It’s competence.”
In the U.S., 93.7 percent of professional pilots are white and 92.5 percent are male, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Romello Walters—a social media manager for Fly for the Culture, an organization dedicated to diversifying the airline workforce—told CNN that many inner-city children of color aren’t exposed to the aviation industry in their schools or communities. Many also lack the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to attend a flight academy and become a licensed pilot.
United said it will find applicants by partnering with the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Sisters of the Skies, the Latino Pilots Association and the Professional Asian Pilots Association.
Hiring a more diverse workforce could help the aviation industry avoid a looming pilot shortage, according to Shannon McLoughlin Morrison, Assistant Director of Academics and Program Assessment at Ohio State University.
In an article she wrote about the lack of airline diversity, she reported that Black and female pilots cited a lack of mentors, access to the industry, resources and “people who look like you” as barriers to entering and staying in the flight industry.
Newsweek contacted Fox News for comment.
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