United Airlines celebrates first graduation class of pilots

A United Airlines Dreamliner takes off.
JBabinski380, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – United Airlines is the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school. The airline is now 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.

Supporting fleet growth

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 Airlines CEO comments

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.”

The United Aviate Academy

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.

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.


Graduates of United Aviate Academy have a lot to look forward to. In December, United ordered more widebody aircraft than any U.S. carrier in commercial aviation history.

The order placed was for 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options to purchase 100 more.

Combined with already announced orders, the airline expects to take delivery of about 700 new aircraft by 2032, including an average of more than two every week in 2023 and three a week in 2024.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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