United Airlines Purchases Its Own Flight Training Academy

Today, United Airlines announced that it has signed an agreement to purchase the Westwind School of Aeronautics in Phoenix, Arizona. This will help with the carrier’s plans of hiring over 10,000 pilots by 2029.

United Airlines at Denver
United Airlines is intent on helping the careers of new pilots take off. Photo: Getty

Serious investments

The firm will be the only major United States-based airline to own and operate an academy that focuses on training and developing aspiring pilots.

This move is an expansion on United’s Aviate program, which was launched last year. Business Insider reports that the project was started to help with recruitment and development for pilots.

It accepts beginner pilots, along with those with licenses that are looking to gain more flight hours. It also accepts pilots working for regional airlines.

The Westwind School of Aeronautics will now be rebranded as a United facility this fall. Those that are students here will be considered part of the Aviate program.  Therefore, they’ll have a route to a job at one of United’s regional operations. After that, they’ll be on track to fly for United’s mainline service once they graduate and accumulate flight hours.

United Airlines
The airline is offering a well-rounded experience. Photo: Getty Images

Long-term backing

United managing director of pilot strategy Captain Curtis Brunjes spoke of how the academy will comprehensively develop the skills of prospective pilots for them to become qualified professionals.

“This is a primary training flight academy, it takes people with zero hours and builds them all the way up to the professional pilot credentials that are required to become an instructor, and eventually, an airline pilot,” Brunjes said, as reported by Business Insider.

“And during the course of that training, they get seven FAA certifications.”

Meanwhile, within a press release, Captain Bebe O’Neil, United’s managing director of Aviate shared that the program was developed in collaboration with Air Line Pilots Association, International. One of the project’s goals is to have a greater influence on the next generation of aviators at his airline.

He said that by launching its own academy, United has the unique opportunity to ensure that it maintains the ideal number of quality candidates within its pilot pipeline.

Additionally, it helps it hold a greater presence when it comes to recruiting, developing, and welcoming prospects from diverse backgrounds.

United Airlines Pilots
10,000 more pilots are set to don the famous pilot’s uniform for United by the time this decade is over. Photo: Getty Images

Support needed

Moreover, the airline is looking to launch a scholarship program that focuses on encouraging women and minorities to join. United also hopes to reduce financial barriers to joining the program across the board. It is doing this by engaging with financial institutions for attractive financial terms.

Ultimately, it is looking to offer competitive interest rates and tailored grace periods for qualified individuals wishing to take part.

Altogether, with United continuing to expand on its services and fleet, it will need to have the personnel to support its ambitions. It is a costly process to become a pilot, requiring 1,500 hours of flight experience and fees amounting up to around $90,000.

Therefore, this program and investment will help the carrier attract and develop some of the greatest prospects to become qualified pilots.

What are your thoughts about United purchasing the Westwind School of Aeronautics? Let us know what you think of the pilot training program in the comment section.