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Erin Lear Launches First Female Aviation Academy

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), female pilots “still account for only a small portion of the pilot population despite decades of attempts to fix the problem.” The statistics back this up with female pilots currently “making up about just 7% of all certificated pilots and little has changed in over 10 years when the number was closer to 6.2%. Professional pilot ranks are even less diverse, with women holding 4.3% of airline transport pilot certificates.”

There has been some progress as noted by Peggy Chabrian who is the president and founder of Women in Aviation International (WAI), one of a few groups that advocate for a greater representation of women throughout the industry, especially in professional settings. Chabrian noted “women have gone from around 1.9% of ATPs in 1990 to more than 4%. This is proof that the trend is at least headed in the right direction.”

The timing couldn’t be better for Erin "Elle" Lear, the Learjet heiress, to embark on her own journey in the heavily male dominated aviation world. As the youngest of twelve grandchildren of William ("Bill") P. Lear, the famed inventor of the Learjet, Motorola, and the Eight Track Stereo System, Elle Lear is continuing to build the family’s legacy by recently founding the first female Aviation Academy. It’s aptly and cleverly named Birde.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Lear, who is also a pilot, explained that her objective is “to help more women enter the aviation field and become pilots while simultaneously championing her family’s vision of bringing more sustainable fuels and electric airplanes into the aviation industry via clean, renewable energy choices.”

Scheduled to officially open in 2024, Lear’s unique marketing strategy is simple yet appealing to those seeking more in the aviation industry. The Academy will be the first to market by eFlyers which have a ten-fold reduction in operating costs and are the first all-electric airplane in the United States. Developed by American aircraft manufacturer Bye Aerospace, based in Englewood, Colorado, the company specializes in the design and manufacture of electric aircraft, including unmanned aircraft for geospatial role and light aircraft for the flight training role.

According to Lear, “Covid-19 slowed down the launch process for the Academy as well as Bye Aerospace’s production.” However, Lear remains enthusiastic about both endeavors because it is about "opening the door" for more females to get into aviation via the Academy’s lower cost financial model.” The program is already starting to takeoff with Lear sharing “there are 100’s of potential students (predominantly females) already on the wait list for enrollment and 726 Bye Aerospace deposits on the eFlyers that go into production in 2023.”

Because there are zero 'female only' flight schools that Lear knows of, other than the Academy, Lear envisions her students will “develop lifelong friendships and not feel so alone going into a predominantly male industry. We want to help prepare them for that world by delivering a strong inclusive support system with other female students and instructors.”

It seems, just like her grandfather, Lear is poised to change the world, only this time, for a new generation of women who are ready to soar in the world of aviation.