United Airlines Purchases Flight School

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United Airlines has signed an agreement to buy Westwind School of Aeronautics, a flight school located in Phoenix, Arizona. According to United, the purchase makes it the only major carrier in the U.S. to own a flight training academy. The school, which will be renamed United Aviate Academy, will be operated as an expansion of United’s Aviate pilot development and recruitment program.

“Launching our own academy provides us with the unique opportunity to not only ensure we maintain the ideal number of quality candidates within our pilot pipeline, but also play a significant role in recruiting, developing and welcoming those with diverse backgrounds to the United family,” said Aviate managing director Bebe O’Neil.

United expects about 300 students to graduate from the academy in its first full year of operation. The airline also announced that it is exploring ways to “reduce financial barriers” to joining the program, including plans to start a scholarship initiative focusing on women and minorities. United says it anticipates hiring more than 10,000 pilots by 2029.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I, sort of, agree with both comments made so far this morning. UAL’s announced 10K warm body requirement is, I believe, match in theory by AA and DAL. That still leaves SWA, Spirit, Frontier, and others out there looking for pilots. Throw on top of that whatever the requirements are for business aviation and you have serious numbers of pilot slots to fill.
    I offer the thought that it is time to come up with a “school” system similar to that of the military for the civilian world. Funding…. good question. Obviously, pilot training at this level (like the military) isn’t cheap. Eliminating the requirements to have college degrees will help. Beyond “filling the square” my BS has pretty much been useless over my 20K hours.
    A concentrated system like the military’s will result in producing pilots with around 200 hours that are likely of a bit higher quality than regular 200 hours folks without the concentrated schooling. Once the students have “earned their wings”, now what? Well, that will require legislative and regulatory help from the FAA. The military puts their “many-motor” folks through schools for a specific airplane, assigns them to a unit and uses them “on the line” while continuing their formal education at the hands the more senior crewmembers they fly with. Training is documented and as certain experience levels are reached, they advance in qual level. In the civil world, that would require the FAA to get on board and permit low time pilots in the right seat and would require left seater’s to actual contribute effort to training their own “replacements”. People and the FAA will whine about the low time thing, but the military puts those same kids in the right seats of C-130’s, C-17’s, C-5’s and a host of other large and small aircraft (fighters don’t count but they get the same product) quite safely and effectively every day.
    Funding, the big question here. Not my strong point but some sort of across the board funding requirement for companies with access to the product produced. Maybe some sort of government funding in the form of scholarships. The rub will be how do the individuals actually exist for the year or so required for the schooling? Well, it would be good if they ate regularly and slept indoors most of the time…. Again, the military “hires” their students so the kids have an income. The military does tag some pretty serious “you gotta stay on board” requirements. It was 6 years in my day but I believe it is about 10 years now. Before starting, the students could be required to sign an employment commitment requirement enforceable if they graduate.
    Not too likely that the various companies could agree on a single curriculum let alone funding and getting the FAA on board would be a gi-normus task. But at least it is an idea.

    • I think it can be done. Reduced requirements in an approved course has been an option for quite a while and not a new concept that may take much longer to create. An approved curriculum here could be aimed more directly at knowledge and skill requirements for the right seat at reduced hours. The FAA was quite flexible in allowing TAA aircraft to substitute for the traditional complex aircraft for the Commercial Rating. So hopefully all parties will create a new program to fill the need.