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 – with 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. Just last month, United purchased more widebodies than any U.S. airline in history and announced it’s now the largest carrier across both the Pacific and Atlantic. To support that growth, United hired about 2,400 pilots in 2022 and plans 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 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.”
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 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.