The first six of 19 students have completed the airline-focused training portion of JetBlue’s Gateway Select competency-based programme for aspiring pilots.

They are now continuing to earn their FAA-mandated 1,500 hours of flight time at a CAE facility in Arizona where they will work as pilot instructors. Following this, and upon meeting FAA and Gateway Select requirements, the students will become new hires at JetBlue, completing the same orientation and six-week instruction that all first officers complete.

The additional 13 candidates will complete the programme in cohorts, with the next set scheduled to complete their pilot ratings before December 2017.

JetBlue says the pilot trainees came from a diverse set of backgrounds and professional experiences, including a heavy machine operator, a supermarket sales clerk and an accountant.

“The completion of this milestone proves our idea that there can be a successful competency-based pathway, with the right structure and training, to becoming an airline pilot,” declared Warren Christie, JetBlue’s SVP safety, security and air operations. “Gateway Select is the only direct path to entry into an airline in the U.S.”

As part of cycle one, Gateway Select candidates went through a series of assessments based on the ICAO pilot competencies and JetBlue's own selection criteria. "Our pilot trainees performed extremely well throughout the programme, including completing training exercises that our current pilots perform,” Christie continued. “The rigorous selection process, which measured applicants on the qualities that make a strong airline pilot, uncovered a group of trainees that will be great JetBlue pilots."

The second round of applications is now open for the four-year programme, which consists of a curriculum delivered by JetBlue in partnership with CAE and encompasses classroom learning, real-world flying experience and instruction in full-flight simulators. The new set of candidates will begin the Gateway Select programme in January 2018.

With Gateway Select, JetBlue is working to recruit applicants from minority colleges and technical schools and partnering with other organisations that also seek to stimulate greater inclusion in the pilot ranks.

Vanessa Blacknall-Jamison, Chairwoman of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), said, “OBAP is pleased to have been part of this successful recruiting initiative. JetBlue continues to be an industry leader on innovative recruiting solutions. Many are taking note as JetBlue leads.”