L3 Commercial Aviation says it has been overwhelmed with applications for 10 female-only scholarships on its airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) training programme, just weeks after launch.

The Crawley, UK-based training provider announced its L3 Pilot Pathways Female Scholarship initiative on 3 December with a campaign mostly on social media and had received 850 expressions of interest by mid-January, says Robin Glover-Faure, president of commercial training solutions.

The company says the programme is designed to "address the problem of diversity on the flightdeck" with women thought to make up fewer than one in 10 trainee flightcrew, and only around 6% of pilots flying for airlines today.

L3, which runs schools in New Zealand, Portugal, the UK and the USA, is offering successful candidates in Europe £25,000 or €29,000 ($33,000) – roughly one-third of the course fee. It is considering expanding the scholarship programme to North America, where half its students are based.

Glover-Faure believes the scheme's biggest success has been in "breaking cultural barriers and creating a multiplier effect" where many women who fail to achieve a scholarship will continue to pursue a career as a pilot. "Out of the 850 who applied, only 30 had previously approached us," he says. "So we are sure it has generated a wave of interest among females who had not before thought they could become an airline pilot."

L3 – whose biggest European customer is EasyJet – is funding the programme itself. It will award the 10 scholarships a year based on a candidate’s "motivational score" at interview, and not on his or her financial means, says Glover-Faure.

The scheme is not just about correcting gender imbalance, he maintains, but about solving a growing skills shortage in the cockpit as the global airline fleet grows over the next decade. "Airlines will simply not be able to find enough pilots unless we broaden the pool, and get more talented women to consider it as a career," he says.

L3 hopes eventually to co-ordinate with other industry efforts to increase the number of women pilots, such as EasyJet's Amy Johnson Flying Initiative, which aims to ensure that 20% of pilots joining the low-cost airline are female by 2020.

Source: FlightGlobal.com