United Targets Military Pilots


United Airlines has created a new recruitment campaign aimed at smoothing the transition from military flying to the aluminum (and composite) tube. Candidates who qualify are guaranteed a right-seat job and do not have to get an ATP before applying. “They can earn this certification before commencing their roles at United, providing flexibility and timing that suits them and their loved ones,” United said in a news release.

The program is open to active duty and reserve pilots and those with prior military flying experience as long as they meet the basic requirements. About 3,000 of United’s current 16,000 pilots have military experience along with 9,200 in other roles. United needs to hire 10,000 pilots in the next 10 years to meet an aggressive expansion schedule. The airline recently ordered 100 Boeing 787 aircraft.

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. This is great news! Hopefully these pilots take the offer and get into the United Pipeline. I may actually have to start flying United when that happens.

  2. I must say, after an almost 40 year career flying everything from props to the 747-400 for a major US Airline (not UAL) , I flew with hundreds of Military Pilots including 3 Star Generals, they were no better than civilian pilots. What makes a good pilot? I don’t think there’s any such thing as a natural pilot, and what makes a great pilot is somebody that has developed the experience to be able to know his or her limitations, and just make good practical decisions . If you can identify the ego, which is a problem in aviation, and control that, and do things predicated on wisdom rather than spontaneous surges of ego, you can be a great pilot. Just another requirement, being professional and being able to get along with your fellow crew members. I loved my job and never had to work for a living. Still fly my B55 for several nonProfits about 200 hours per year.

      • Your story reminds me of when I sold my bush-plane with a tow-hook to a glider group. Got talking to one of the pilots who was a former fighter jock, said that after hanging up his uniform he stepped into the glider world as a civilian thinking he’s a hot shot pilot because he flew fighters.

        He was quickly humbled, realizing the military didn’t scratch the surface in teaching him how to fly, and that he learned more from glider flying than any of his military training.

        Biggest advantage I see is that military pilots have the hours required for an ATP without the financial debt of accruing those hours. That alone is alluring enough for the airliners to recruit.

    • The big factor is the head start of already being pilots with some experience under their belts. Nothing magical about being military, same variations in ego and other personality leanings.

      Your mention of the military Aero Club reminded me about the one at Wheelus AFB (Libya) back in the mid ’60s. They had a flat-rate “special”; you could, if you were adept enough within the hour limit imposed, get your license for $200. And I didn’t take advantage because my budget was too tight at the time!

  3. I have nothing against any military pilot taking an airline job. I do think this is just another attempt by an airline to avoid having to pay to train candidates from student pilot level all the way up to ATP. Just snag a pilot who someone else has payed for training (the government)! Only in aviation!

    • Why should airlines train pilots from curb to cockpit?! There’s alot to learn along the way, each step up the ladder is worth taking and learning.
      What surprises me about this program is that UA doesn’t include an ATP course to facilitate those that qualify. To my eye it starts looking like more PR than a real hire-a-vet program.
      I’m ex military. Biggest issue is getting fighter pilots to work with others in one cockpit. Small sample, but insistently so.

  4. My thoughts were that if a military pilot who flew cargo and supplies everywhere, might not want to fly entitled whining people after said pilot left the service.

  5. The FAA allows a carve-out for qualifying for the R-ATP for prior military training. That sends two alarming messages: 1) The FAA doesn’t want to allow someone to take a written/flight test to prove they have the ability to pass the ATP checkride with less than 1500 hours or 750 with military training. Why? Do they think the ATP is not a valid test if pilot qualification? Gasp!! And 2) The FAA refuses to rethink civilian flight training to allow more technology based training to immerse students in scenario based simulation. Instead they are stuck in the 1950’s and we are still training with equipment not all that different than the 1950’s. And all that nostalgia comes with an arbitrary 1500 hour penalty.

    So in summary, the FAA deems that civilian pilots are not worthy of even being allowed to prove their ability to take a test until they have twice as much irrelevant time as their military trained counterpart, who by the way was not trained to be an airline pilot to begin with.

    This would have made a good episode for MASH. “That is all”