United Airlines Will Spend $100 million to Expand Pilot Training Center Amid Pilot Shortage

United Airlines is expanding its Flight Training Center in Denver, Colorado, to support its efforts of hiring 10,000 pilots by 2030.

United Airlines airliner taxiing

United expects to add more than 2,000 new pilots in 2022. [Courtesy: United Airlines]

United Airlines is expanding its Flight Training Center in Denver to support its efforts of hiring 10,000 pilots by 2030. The company said it would add a new four-story building on the 23-acre campus in Denver’s Central Park neighborhood to house 12 additional advanced flight simulators, training classrooms, conference rooms, and offices. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and will cost approximately $100 million.

Executives from the airline were joined by Denver’s mayor, Michael Hancock, and Phillip Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport (KDEN), at a groundbreaking event to kick off the expansion project that is expected to complete before the end of 2023. Meanwhile, United was represented by executives Marc Champion, the managing director of the Flight Training Center; Toby Enqvist, United’s executive vice president and chief customer officer; and Matt Miller, United’s vice president of airport operations in Denver.

Champion described the facility as “world-class” and said it would give “United even more resources to recruit and train the next generation of aviators.”

Facing the Pilot Shortage

The impetus for the expansion comes as airlines have been grappling with a worsening pilot shortage, made worse by backlogged training woes. In a separate update, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told investors that “Pilots are a constraint in the system right now, and I think they’ll be a constraint for some time.”

Presently, United’s campus is already the largest of its kind in the world. With seven buildings across 550,000 square feet of training space, the airline can train its 12,000 active pilots and new hires. United expects to add more than 2,000 new pilots in 2022.

The airlines said that as many as 600 pilots might be training at the facility at any given time. One reason for this is that United’s pilots must visit the training center every nine months to remain up to date on certifications.

The training center currently has 39 full-motion flight simulators and 15 fixed training devices, but the new space will allow for a total of 52 full-motion simulators and 28 fixed training devices.

The expansion will also benefit more than 1,000 of United’s 7,000-plus Denver-based employees who work at the current training center as instructors, evaluators, scheduling, human resources, and flight standards.

To support its overall pilot recruitment efforts, the airline will also train 5,000 pilots through 2030 at its United Aviate Academy, which it opened in the spring, with a commitment to ensuring that half of those trainees be women or people of color.

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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