Exclusive: How United's Aviate Academy First Class Is Helping Women and BIPOC Soar

In an exclusive interview with People Chica, pilot Natalie Villalpando dishes on what she hopes the future of aviation will look like.
Jul 20, 2022 3:30 PM ET

Originally published by People Chica

Natalie Villalpando is soaring to new heights. The aspiring pilot grew up in an aviation-focused family of pilots and aerospace engineers and is hoping to continue her family's legacy as part of the United Aviate Academy's first class, which is made up of 80% women or BIPOC.

"I thought for a while I was only going to be a passenger my whole life," she tells People Chica. "Then, when United opened this academy, it was a once in a lifetime chance that I had to take."

In December 2021, she flew for the first time and felt like flying was her destiny, despite thinking that this career would not be possible for her.

"I didn't see any pilots who looked like me, I saw very few women pilots. I didn't see any Latina pilots," she says. "It is right now amazing to consider that I am the first in a new class of pilots, a new program, but also that going forward, the idea that I had for what a pilot could or couldn't be when I was growing up isn't going to be the norm anymore. It feels amazing to be part of that change." 

In an exclusive interview with People Chica, Villalpando dishes in on how United Aviate Academy has made her dream career possible and how other women of color can make their dreams come true.

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