United, the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, is celebrating the graduation of United Aviate Academy’s inaugural class of pilots, an important step towards training the next generation of talented, qualified, and motivated aviators. The inaugural graduating class includes 51 students – nearly 80% being women or people of color – marking the next step towards the airline’s goal to train about 5,000 new pilots at the school by 2030, with the added goal of at least half women or people of color.
The recruitment and hiring of pilots is a priority at United, and the academy is an example of the long-term investments in infrastructure, training, and aircraft the airline has made in the past few years. Last month, United purchased more widebodies than any U.S. airline in history and announced it’s now the largest carrier across the Pacific and Atlantic. To support that growth, United hired about 2,400 pilots in 2022 and planned to hire another 2,500 this year. United intends to add at least 10,000 pilots by the end of this decade.
United CEO Scott Kirby and United COO Toby Enqvist will honor the first class of graduates at a ceremony later this morning at the Phoenix Goodyear Airport.
“United is leading the industry in the training, recruitment, and hiring of the next generation of talented commercial pilots. 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.”
United Aviate Academy graduates can continue to build flight time and leadership experience while continuing within the United Aviate pilot career development program’s ecosystem. Some graduates will work as Certified Flight Instructors at the academy to continue accruing the 1,500 required flying hours – a common industry practice for aspiring pilots – while others will build experience at participating flight schools or universities, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Purdue University, and Hampton University. The United Aviate program then encourages graduates to eventually fly for a United Express carrier, take on leadership roles at an Aviate participating Part 135 operator, or become a Fleet Technical Instructor at United to complete their training. Aviate participants can expect to become a United pilot within about six years of graduating from the United Aviate Academy.
Captaining Your Career at United
United currently has more than 14,000 pilots, and Captains of United’s Boeing 787s and 777s can earn more than $350,000 per year plus a rich package of benefits. In addition, United pilots receive one of the highest 401(k) matches in the nation – 16% of base pay.
While the airline continues to see strong interest in pilot roles from military and civilian backgrounds as well as from other carriers, for many people becoming a pilot seems not only out of reach financially but completely unimaginable.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5.6% of pilots are women, and 6% are people of color. And training to achieve a commercial pilot’s license in the U.S. can cost at least $100,000, with supplementary costs adding to the financial burden.
To help address financial barriers to entry, United and JPMorgan Chase & Co. established a scholarship fund in 2020 and are working with leading industry partners to award more than $5 million in scholarships for prospective academy students. In addition, Boeing has committed funding to expand the program this year. United also directly works with the following organizations to educate prospects about the benefits of becoming a pilot and to find candidates for scholarship opportunities:
- Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals
- Sisters of the Skies
- Women in Aviation International
- National Gay Pilots Association
- The Latino Pilots Association
- The Professional Asian Pilots Association
- Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)
As a result of these efforts, United Aviate Academy has received more than 22,000 applications, with nearly 70% of applicants being women or people of color.
United Aviate Academy
United Aviate Academy currently has more than 240 students, with nearly 75% women or people of color. In the flight school’s first year of operations, collectively, the students have flown more than 2 million miles, achieved more than 250 aviation certificates, and completed more than 68,000 takeoffs and landings. The aspiring pilots also organized 174 “Pool Dunks” in the campus swimming pool, a new tradition that commemorates each time a student completes a solo flight for the first time.
The 340,000 square-foot facility at Phoenix Goodyear Airport includes world-class features such as:
- Forty late-model Cirrus SR-20 series single-engine aircraft feature advanced safety characteristics.
- Seven FRASCA flight simulators
- Nearly 50,000 square feet of office space
- Multiple aircraft hangars
- Dormitory rooms for student housing with ample room for expansion
- Proximity to many auxiliary airfields in the Phoenix area
- Favorable weather for year-round flight training
For more information on United Aviate Academy, please visit unitedaviate.com/academy.
Graduates of United Aviate Academy have a lot to look forward to. In December, United ordered more widebody aircraft than any U.S. carrier in commercial aviation history: 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options to purchase 100 more. Combined with already announced orders, the airline expects to take delivery of about 700 new aircraft by 2032, including an average of more than two every week in 2023 and three a week in 2024.
This historic purchase is the next chapter in the carrier’s ambitious United Next plan and builds on United’s strengths: the leading U.S. international gateways, a robust domestic network supporting the global fleet, a premium onboard experience, and the most widebody aircraft among North American carriers.