Flight simming is more than sitting at our computers exploring the ins and outs of different types of aircraft and areas of the world. It’s also about connecting with others who share the same passion. It’s about sharing a seat with like-minded individuals and learning together as aviators. Whether that means flying together, discussion avionics in the forums, or being excited about the latest in aviation technology, there is a massive community online and in person, with tons of organizations for every type of pilot.
Today we’d like to focus on The NPGA, the largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender aviation professionals and enthusiasts from around the world. The mission is simple: to build, support, and unite the LGBTQ+ aviation community worldwide.
The NGPA is more than just a community. They provide scholarships for aspiring aviators, set up inclusion trainings around the country, and offer a ton of resources for members such as counseling, mentorship, and more. It connects you to peers and mentors to help you achieve your aviation goals.
We had the opportunity to speak with Troy Merritt, Vice President for NGPA. He oversees many of the membership programs, including scholarships, mentorships, and volunteers, and is also a full-time commercial airline pilot.
Merritt grew up extremely interested in aviation throughout his adolescence, playing flight simulators to help gain a lot of fundamental knowledge to hit the ground running before he started flight training. He explains, “Flight Simulator helped develop and encourage my interest. I’ve always found the entire airline business fascinating. Getting and airplane from point A to point B is an incredible feat of human and machine logistics.”
He first learned about NGPA while he was learning to fly in 2012 and 2013, although he hesitated to join until 2016 as he was nervous connecting his identity as a gay person with aviation. “I never saw the two as having any connection. When I took a chance on NGPA I learned there was an entire community of LGBTQ+ aviation enthusiasts and pilots who I could connect with.”
In 2017, Merritt was the recipient of the NGPA and American Airlines Boeing 737 Type Rating Scholarship, helping him take the next step in his aviation career. Whether you seek support during private pilot training, more exposure with major carriers, or mentors to help guide you in aviation, groups like the NGPA are an extremely great organization to be a part of. In fact, the NGPA has given away over $750,000 in scholarships to aspiring aviators since its inception.
The NGPA Story:
Merrit shares, “When NGPA was founded, it was not acceptable to be an openly LGBTQ+ person on the flight deck and around much of the flying community. One of our founding members tells the story of a gay friend of his who was brave enough to come out at work. That person dealt with harassment and vulgarity at work, and even death threats left in his flight deck seat when he showed up to work. Although there are still challenges today, I am so proud of the work NGPA has done and the progress aviation has made in becoming a far more accepting place for LGBTQ+ people. Now the FAA and airlines have inclusive practices for transgender people and aviation business actively support and fund LGBTQ+ causes (including NGPA).”
The FAA talks about their mission to actively support and engage with a variety of programs to accommodate diverse communities and backgrounds here, for those interested in learning more.
Our flight simulator community is full of aviation enthusiasts, aspiring pilots, full-time pilots, retired pilots, and casual simmers alike! We embrace the diversity of simmers we have throughout the globe and support NGPA and organizations like it. If you are interested in getting involved with NGPA, whether to meet like-minded individuals or have a network of support while you advance your aviation career, student members begin at $20 a year and regular memberships begin at $49 a year. They have annual events to meet and connect with the LGBTQIA+ aviation community and local chapters around the US and even a chapter in Europe/UK! To learn more about NGPA, check out their website here!
- The MSFS Team