First Black student on pilot course raises funds after scholarship was scrapped

The first Black student on an aspiring pilot course is attempting to raise £60,000 for his studies after his sponsorship was pulled due to coronavirus.

Rasheed Graham, from Kensal Rise, London, is appealing for help after losing his place on the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme, which was scrapped following the outbreak of the pandemic.

The 23-year-old has been given £44,000 towards an Airline Transport Pilot’s License course by the airline, but must now raise the rest of the £104,000-bill.

The money must be raised by January 2021 when the course re-starts and currently Rasheed has raised just over £8,000 after producing a video about his situation.

The devastated student took to social media to share the video and launch a GoFundMe page.

Rasheed, who has wanted to be a pilot since he was five, said: ‘Heartbroken is probably the best word, this is the only fully-funded programme for aspiring pilots who do not have the financial means to become a pilot, so essentially I had the golden ticket.

‘Aer Lingus has been superb. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, especially the pilots union. They made sure we were looked after during this period.

‘Becoming a pilot is a very elitist career, the training costs over £100,000 at some of the best flying schools and this is somewhat impossible for people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.’

Rasheed recognises the lack of Black and Asian students in the airline industry and says money is a huge barrier to accessibility.

He added: ‘Especially in schools. I don’t think young people like myself are told that they can become pilots, it’s almost a case of already having a large sum of money readily available to you to be able to even think of becoming a pilot.

‘After my crowdfund I would like to use my platform to encourage more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers as pilots and other professional careers.’

Rasheed’s journey to becoming a pilot began when he joined the Air Training Corps aged just 13 in 2010.

He continued: ‘I love the sense of freedom I get from flying, it’s something that can’t be described unless you sit behind the controls of an aircraft yourself, I just feel at home when I’m airborne and it’s a feeling of complete happiness.

‘I have no family who are pilots and work in aviation, so I believe it’s something I’m destined to do.’

Rasheed’s talent has seen him pick up awards such as the Prince Philip Private Pilots’ License scholarship in 2017.

Rasheed was presented with the achievement by the Duke of Edinburgh in a ceremony at St James’ Palace.

You can donate to his cause on Rasheed’s GoFundMe page.

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