First Class Graduates From United Flight School


United Airlines has graduated its first class of new pilots from its Aviate Academy in Arizona. The first class of 51 new pilots, 80 percent of them women or people of color, got their wings earlier this week. United wants to crank out 5,000 new pilots from the school over the next seven years and it wants at least half of them to be female and/or people of color. It called the graduation “an important step towards training the next generation of talented, qualified, and motivated aviators.”

Aviate graduates don’t go directly to the flight deck of an airliner. Many will become instructors at the academy to build the balance of the 1,500 hours they need to become an FO. Others will build time at Embry-Riddle, Purdue and Hampton Universities, which are affiliated with Aviate. United says it will take graduates about six years to finally get in the right seat of a United Express aircraft or take other roles within the organization. United says it needs about 10,000 pilots over the next seven years.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Hiring pilots based on ethnicity and other equity factors and not based on ability. What could go wrong with that? Don’t think I will be flying on United.

    • Well then, your analysis just may be backwards, they were hired on their ability. The difference that the net was widened to find and recruit those who were previously excluded

      • If you had been following the news about this school from the beginning, you’d know they were pushing everything about color and sex with little to nothing mentioned about skill and proficiency.

        • The fact is that aviation has been overwhelmingly white and male for its entire history.

          If you are a young black women, for instance; you are not going to see many role models and therefore are more likely than not to think there is no place for you in aviation.

          The fact is that the old days when Canada and the US were a Christian white monoculture are over. If you you want to grow your workforce you have to widen the net.

          The only issue is to not diminish the standard. From what I have heard this program’s students are on average doing better on course than the industry average.

          I have worked for companies where the unstated but obvious management objective was no girls were going to get hired. This may make the guys feel better but it is not a valid employment model going forward

      • Why do you say they were previously excluded? That is nonsense. The effort was to attract more than just white males but the opportunities in the industry have been open to any qualified applicant. United’s effort was to interest a wider cross section of the population, and yes there was emphasis on certain groups as well, but it was not because of previous exclusion.

      • Obviously you don’t follow the news about this school, or the airlines’ hiring programs in general.
        Nothing could be further from the truth.
        The best one can hope for in these times is that the pre-selected pool of square-fillers will contain some who are actually qualified.
        After 36 years of watching exactly the opposite happen there, and knowing how much worse the “woke-ism” has gotten since I left, I’m not optimistic.

  2. Agreed. I do not care if the person in the pilot’s seat is a 3 Horned Martian as long as the 3 Horned Martian has the ability to properly operate the aircraft professionally and safely.

  3. And not one has flown in a cloud.
    Arizona is a great place to fly… not a great place to learn how to fly.

    • Do you think they might get to fly in some clouds sometime between now and the 6 years from now that they might finally end up as a FO? This is initial training. How many clouds did you fly through during your PPL training?

    • When I was taking flying lessons in Tucson – a bit south of this school’s location – Lufthansa was running advanced pilot training in the same area. It seemed OK to Lufthansa. Students can get experience in clouds elsewhere.
      Around that area, they can get practice dodging thunderstorms during the late-summer monsoon season. And handling moderate turbulence most any afternoon.

  4. I think that the gender/ethnicity factors are the first screen for candidates who then must pass the intellectual and social intelligence screens before being admitted to the training program. And while Arizona is a great place for initial training, over the next years, these candidates will be exposed to less than ideal weather to complete their training. UAL is a business that will not put its multi million dollar capital assets (aircraft) at risk in the hands of nonproficient operators (pilots).

    • I worked for them. Don’t bet on it. They are woke and agenda based. They train to minimum standards and do backflips to pass minorities. I once had a copilot that failed 3 checks in a row and they still had her on the line. Plus, nothing in their training tests for the ability to think calmly in a crisis. Women are more likely to freeze up mentally under extreme stress. That’s just human nature. They can pretend it isn’t true, but that won’t change the truth.

  5. In my day pilot applicants were chosen from ex-military pilots or highly motivated youth with a long standing passion for aviation. These were often kids who worked as Line boys, and knew aviation and it’s history well before even beginning flight training. In any case, hiring based on gender and race is itself blatantly discriminatory and should not be part of the hiring process.

  6. I imagine Marlon Greene would be quite offended at the primary piece of data being pushed in the story. He wanted to be hired based on his experience and skills.

    So, when these students complete their training with a commercial ticket and multiengine rating, were any practical tests failed? What were their written knowledge test scores? Any retakes? What were their deficient areas?

    If they become flight instructors, what was the pass rate of how many students on both written and practical tests? What were the deficient areas of their students?

    Were there any mishaps as a student or instructor?

    I’m asking only a small part of what a competent panel of technical interviewers will be learning before they are allowed into flying transport category aircraft for any airline.

  7. Yes, that is the approximate cost, but what does a 4 year degree cost these days? What would you pay to get all your ratings at any flight school or FBO? The cost at United Aviate for just the flight training is about $72K, which means United has to be subsidizing it. They are using Cirrus SR-20 for most of the training. UA just started a partnership with someone to do upset training during their year of training.

    In one year the UA trainee’s come away with their Commercial, Instrument, CFII and MEL ratings. After that they start working as a CFII and are making money. Once they get to 1500 hours they get their ATP rating. Then United has regional partners where they will fly for a minimum of 2 years and 2000 hours. After these steps they have 3500+ hours, and then will be eligible for the next opening with United.

    For those who are concerned about never being in a cloud in AZ, their time at a regional carrier will take care of that, grooming them for airline work.

    My son just started his training at United Aviate this month. Pretty cool, especially since he is a white male. We went to an open house at United Aviate last fall and learned that only 2% of the applicants make it in the door to Aviate. United does the full hiring and onboarding process before you come to Aviate, which included self-studying and taking the PPL written test.

  8. UAL had a similar program in the 60’s. I wonder why UAL abandoned the Project for more than sixty years? As kids my friend and I applied to the UAL program, he was excepted because he had an aeronautical engineering degree and I was rejected. He washed out of F/E training and I was hired by DAL. There truly is a God.

    • I flew with some of those zero-timers that were hired by UAL back when they first became captains. Worst pilots I’ve ever flown with in my life. Horrible.

  9. It’s ILLEGAL in the USA to base hiring on sex, color, or ethnicity.
    That’s what the whole civil rights and suffragette movements were about.
    Ironically “progressives” have torpedoed a centuries worth of progress.

  10. This is all woke generated stuff. Obviously white men are in the x hairs. Why not just get it done. No white men allowed and all women permited. Black 1st, Hispanic, then all the rest. Then we do’t have to listen to all this refuse ablut racisium and injustace. Eliminate the white guys and there will be no more issues.

    • It’s not. It’s illegal and wrong, but UAL is corrupt and in bed with the woke Washington “uni-party.”

  11. You can teach almost anyone to pass a written and flight test eventually, but that doesn’t mean they are suited to be the best pilots. As an example, as a group, women do not have the coolness and calmness in a crisis to be safe pilots. They are more likely to panic and panic slows or stops higher brain function. I don’t know of any test for this, but it’s real. Look at videos where people are in crisis situations. Far and away it is women that are more likely to panic and freeze. As to POC, there are real measurable differences in the IQ of different groups. That should be considered but isn’t. This is a dangerous trend toward mediocrity, or worse. The Boeing Max crashes are some of many examples of why airlines still need to look for the best, regardless of woke quotas.

    • Careful there. I have seen a lot of great women pilots though the years.

      As a group, women are much better at handling multiple tasks at once, men more easily tunnel vision. Women are less likely to have to prove their ego. Lots of male pilots have gotten the Darwin award in a “watch this, hold my beer” situation; worse yet when they have innocent passengers on board.

      • I’ve had many that did okay when things were normal. Have you ever seen one panic in a crisis? I have. Ever seen one that busted training 3 times and was sent back out to the line? I have. Ever had a F/O that could reach the rudder pedals to get full extension? I have. There are few female pilots and the crash count is adding up fast.

    • Avweb mods, are you going to leave this racist and misogynistic trash unaddressed here in the comment section?

      • Nothing wrong with my post. Instead of trying to have me canceled, how about offering an intelligent counter. I have 50 years as a pilot at every level, instructor and airline captain, and 25,000 of experience behind my position. How about you?

  12. Look at how the program is set up – basically United pays for the first PPL step, then you find $71k for Inst., Com, ME, CFI, CFII, MEI. In my experience, few of my PPLs that dreamed of flying actually get an ATP because the reality is not the dream. It actually kinda sucks. And these are men and women actually paying. A surprising number ate that huge sh it sandwich of being a CFI to get to 1501, went to a regional, then jumped to another career because Airlines are actually a poor fit for most people. So maybe 10 of these will be in a right seat at UAL in 3 yrs?

    This program will not work for the same reason the inclusion STEM programs struggle: There seems to be waaay more pressure on some groups to conform for social inclusion, and that influences what people think they can do and want to do. In tech, most people from every demo are not interested staying up till 3am coding some arcane tweak. Only a small group of weirdos love to geek out on their Arduino all night. There’s tons of women in bio and research and clinical medicine which are very high skill but social. Most people don’t like to tear things apart or 3d-print, but a few weirdos love it and go into engineering for mech or aero or EE. There’s tons of female bioengineers since it’s very challenging but they also get to work with people who brush their teeth. Some people are under more pressure to fit in and be accepted. Our society gives a sociopath like Steve Jobs a place to leverage his Asperger’s to claw his $150 billion instead of shooting up a mall, but conformity pressure for other demos are completely different and if you were talented but antisocial and abrasive you would just end up a cat lady or in jail.

    If I want to get a more diverse pool of people with a Coast Guard Master’s License I could send lots of bright diverse young adults to a maritime academy, but what will that actually do? For 99% of people, being on a boat without rum drinks is a nightmare. But luckily a few weirdos just love tying bowlines, wearing wet clothes for 6 hours, pumping blackwater, and stinking of bilge and diesel.

    There’s nothing fun or interesting about being a pilot for almost everyone. I vol’d at CAP for years in a majority-minority county. Almost no one of any shade or appendages was interested in free cadet flights that you can log towards a PPL, or my free CFI time. Too low tech, too many rules, too boring. They can watch it on YouTube. Our 1971 Cessna 172 belongs in a museum and smells like feet. Why would ANYONE want to sit in THAT for three years. What’s fun about going to the airport everyday for 99.9% of people?

    But there’s a few effed up weirdos who spludged when they were 11 first saw a 747, got a TOMATOE FLAMES tattoo when they drunk one night at a flight academy in Florida, or just plain love the smell of kero in the morning. That’s who gonna actually want to come to the ramp everyday for 30 yrs.

    • You are so right on. I fell in love with aviation at age 6 and retired from an airline at age 60. Your analysis of where various genders are driven to mirror what I see while doing my other activities. Way more males skiing, climbing, skydiving or simply hanging out at the airport or riding and fixing motorcycles. When I see a gal involved in these activities I lay profuse encouragement on them hoping to see more of the gals involved in our activities. While building my airplane thirty five years ago it was exclusively guys that were interested in my project and there were no signs proclaiming “This is a man cave”.

  13. Love the initiative- many of these fine young candidates will be here long after us cranky old guys are gone.

    • Yep, testa duras for sure Steve. Misogyny and racism can both have a negative impact on the professional aviation industry. Misogyny, can create a hostile work environment for female pilots, flight attendants, and other employees, and can also limit the number of women in these positions. Racism can similarly create a hostile work environment for pilots and other employees and limit the diversity of the workforce. Both misogyny and racism can also contribute to a lack of trust and cooperation between employees and management, and harm the overall performance of the “company”. However, it’s important to recognize that creating a truly inclusive culture within the aviation industry is a continuous process and requires ongoing efforts. The industry is responding, positively I think, although by current statistics not much has changed. A fair balance may happen by 2300.

      2022 Pilot Statistics.
      • White, 89.4%
      • Hispanic or Latino, 5.1%
      • Asian, 2.0%
      • Black or African American, 1.2%
      • American Indian and Alaska Native, 0.2%
      • Unknown, 2.1%
      • 93% of pilots are men. 7% are women.

  14. I used to skydive a lot. At the time, 10% of the jumps were done by women, yet 50% of the fatalities were women (non-tandom jumps). Reading the fatality reports was revealing. Female fatalities were usually associated with inaction and failure to execute the emergency procedure. Presumably straight-up panic, but it doesn’t matter why other than they didn’t do what was needed and died because of it. Few women have the “steel” to be at the top of their game when it is most needed.