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United Airlines Partnership Putting TSU Aviation Students Closer to Pilot Dreams

First Published by TSU Office of Marketing & Communications January 02, 2023

Aviation student credits United Airlines partnership with helping her earn commercial pilot license

Katherine Cabrera has wanted to get into aviation ever since she was a child. While the Houston native knew where she wanted to go, she wasn’t exposed to how to get there.

“I just kind of researched on my own,” Cabrera said. “I didn’t have any guidance. I just researched how to get into piloting. I took a discovery fight. They call it the flying bug. I got bit and it’s kind of an addiction now. I just want to keep getting better and better. I want to be good enough to fly a jet one day.”

Before coming to Texas Southern University, the senior aviation science management major got her private pilot license but says she got stuck because of funding.

“My money was going toward my college tuition so there wasn’t a lot of money left over to fly.”

Cabrera was planning to change majors because she didn’t have the money to cover the flight hours necessary to become a pilot. Then a scholarship came through thanks to a new partnership.

“I was offered a United Airlines scholarship from TSU in order to keep flying and it completely changed everything. I got my instrument rating and I just recently got my commercial pilot license. It’s worked out really well.”

The partnership between TSU and United Airlines includes scholarships as well as ongoing mentorship activities between United employees and students in the program.

“This is what I came to TSU for,” said Aviation Director Dr. Terence Fontaine. “I came here to see these kids reach their goals and to see the fruition of all the labor they put into their work. It’s meaningful.”

Dr. Fontaine says he constantly thinks about the futures of all of his aviation students.

“I think about where they’re going to be in the next 20 to 25 years and all the great things they’re going to accomplish as a result of being here at Texas Southern University and the partnerships we’ve been able to acquire between United Airlines and Southwest Airlines and what they mean,” he said.

Cabrera is one of five students who received the initial United Airlines scholarship.