United Graduates First Class from Aviate Pilot Academy

United's Aviate Academy is the only flight school operated by a major airline.

United Airlines Aviate Academy (UAA), the only flight school operated by a major airline, celebrated its inaugural class of graduates on January 25 at its Goodyear campus in Arizona. 

A first of its kind, UAA is a significant investment in creating additional pathways to the flight deck as the airline plans to hire 10,000 new pilots by the end of the decade. Of the 51 graduates, 39 percent were women, 69 percent were people of color, and 84 percent came in with no prior flight experience.

The academy is well on its way to its goal of training 5,000 new pilots with at least half being women or people of color by 2030. Since opening in 2021, UAA has accepted 240 students and received more than 22,000 applications from aspiring students.

United CEO Scott Kirby was on hand to honor the graduates as the day’s commencement speaker. 

“United is leading the industry in the training, recruitment, and hiring of the next generation of talented commercial pilots, and the progress we’ve made at United Aviate Academy after just one year is another example of an airline where good leads the way,” said Kirby. “I’m so proud of this first class of graduates—they’ve taken an important first step in their career, and they reflect our commitment to hiring people who exceed the highest professional and safety standards. I look forward to eventually welcoming them to our United team, and I can’t wait to see them flying our new United Next planes in the years to come.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also made a virtual appearance to congratulate the new class.

“Last year when we emerged from the pandemic and so many people returned to flying, we saw how challenging it can be when we don’t have the workforce we need to meet that growing demand,” Buttigeg said. “As pilots, you won’t just be making a good living. You will be making a real difference in an industry of national importance that’s urgently needing your skills.”

Workforce Demand

For the recent graduates of UAA, there isn’t a better time to begin their careers as the industry navigates a looming pilot shortage. Boeing’s latest Pilot and Technician Outlook calls for 602,000 new pilots, 610,000 new maintenance technicians, and 899,000 new cabin crew members to fly and maintain the global commercial fleet over the next 20 years. The workforce shortage has even led many major airlines to offer big incentives to compete for talent. In fact, 2022 marked the best year on record for pilot hiring since 2000, according to Future and Active Pilot Advisors.

Coupled with its focus on hiring, United has also prioritized investments in infrastructure, and in December, announced the largest widebody aircraft order from any U.S. carrier in commercial aviation history, as it plans to take delivery of some 700 new aircraft by 2032.

Following graduation, UAA students will have the opportunity to work as Certified Flight Instructors, hold leadership positions at a Part 135 partner, or become a United Fleet Technical Instructor until accruing the minimum flight time requirements. According to the carrier, participants can expect to become a United pilot within about six years of graduating from United Aviate Academy.

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