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United Airlines buys flight school to play bigger role in pilot training and recruitment

The company wants to hire 10,000 pilots within the next decade

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United Airlines announced on Wednesday that it has become the first airline carrier to own and operate its own flight school. The company hopes to use its new acquisition as a tool for helping it hire as many as 10,000 pilots by 2029. 

In a press release, company officials said they expect the new United Aviate Academy -- formerly known as the Westwind School of Aeronautics -- to churn out 300 graduates in its full first year of operation. They note that their acquisition will help give United more control over the recruitment, development, and training of pilots that will be added to its staff.

“We have developed the Aviate program in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association, International to have greater influence on the next generation of aviators at United,” said managing director of Aviate, Captain Bebe O’Neil. 

“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.”

Handling the finances

To help lure more pilots to its Aviate program, United stated that it would be working with financial institutions to help provide better terms for those interested in enrolling. The company said that would include “industry-tailored grace periods” and “competitive interest rates” for qualified individuals.

The carrier will also be launching its own scholarship program focusing on aspiring pilots who are women or from minority groups. 

The Aviate program, launched in 2019, was created to recruit and develop consumers who are interested in becoming career pilots. Those who are accepted into the program are automatically offered a program acceptance job offer with United. More details about the program can be found on the company’s website here.

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